The defeat of two amendments that would have attached a public option for insurance coverage to the Senate Finance Committee's health reform legislation has spurred a fresh round of recriminations and finger-pointing within the Democratic Party. And, in a bit of irony, those who have most forcefully championed the government-run plan were among the first to be blamed.
Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball shortly after his public option amendment was defeated, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) lamented the tough ads that progressive groups have run against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), saying they were counterproductive to getting the provision in the final bill.
"It's hurting us and I wish they wouldn't do it," said the New York Democrat. "What we have to do is show Max Baucus that we have the votes. Today he said he likes the public option. If he thought there were 60 votes on the floor of the Senate he'd be for it. His job is to get a bill through and we all know that getting a bill through is the job number one. And we are showing him. My guess is if you asked Max Baucus at the end of today he was impressed. He was impressed with the argument. He was impressed that we picked up some moderates on the finance committee who people didn't expect. And that's going to continue on the floor."
Schumer is hardly the first Democrat to call on progressive groups to stop targeting members of the party. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reportedly called the advertisements run against Baucus and other conservative Democrats "f---ing stupid" during a closed-door meeting.
All of which is likely to rankle those progressives who see the failure to pass a public option as a byproduct of massive conservative and special-interest pressure - which they were attempting to counteract. Asked for a response to Schumer's remarks, officials with two groups running the now-controversial ads insisted that they were playing a constructive role in the debate and vowed to keep the pressure on their targets.
"Of course Schumer was going to say what he said," said Adam Green who heads the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "Good cop can't publicly embrace bad cop. But that doesn't mean bad cop is not needed to strengthen the negotiating hand of good cop. Schumer can thank us after the public option is passed."
Added Charles Chamberlain, political director of Democracy for America: "Senator Schumer was chair of the DSCC, so of course he doesn't like ads against Senator Baucus. And he's right to be worried about these ads hurting Senator Baucus's approval ratings back home in Montana. Montanans want a public option and are counting on Sen. Baucus to lead. So far, he's been letting them down..."
"The ads make sure Senator Baucus understands what's at stake. Bing Perrine, his family, and Montana need real reform. This isn't a political game to them. It's their lives. So, no - we're not pulling the ads. In fact, the first thing we did after the vote, was we doubled our ad buy goal to $200k. As of midnight, we'll be only a few thousand shy."
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