08/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Emanuel's Public Plan With Triggers Trial Balloon "Blew Up": Dem Lawmaker

A leading progressive in the House of Representatives said on Wednesday that she felt reassured that the White House would not pursue health care reform that tied a public plan to worsening economic triggers.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel might have been floating a "trial balloon" when he told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that a trigger option could be a compromise approach to health care reform. Judging by his interaction with progressives in the House of Representatives in the subsequent hours, she added, it seems that the administration has taken the proposal off the table.

"The president wasn't talking about a trigger," said Woolsey. And when Emanuel floated the idea, she said, "the balloon blew up. He got to the Democratic caucus and he heard loud and clear that that is not what we wanted. And he definitely heard it from myself and the progressives, very clearly, that we're talking about a robust public option."

The co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Woolsey said that when Emanuel came to meet House Democrats on Tuesday evening -- hours after his interview with the Journal was published -- he did not receive a warm reception.

"He was on the defensive because he got there and he had to explain that what the president really wants is a robust public plan," said Woolsey.

The California Democrat said that she has whipped the progressive caucus in the House and concluded that more than 60 of its members would vote against a health care reform plan that had a public option tied to economic triggers. It is a line in the sand that she and others expressed to Emanuel when he met with his former House Democrats.

"Fortunately, when [Emanuel] left, we knew that he was not going to be out working for a trigger," said Woolsey. "He didn't make excuses," she added. "We [the progressive caucus] have already compromised. More than 90 percent of the progressive caucus would vote today for a single payer system. And so for us to compromise and get behind a really good strong public plan, I mean that's as far as we're going. And I started with that and he said, 'Lynn I know that.' He knows that we're very serious about this."

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