With the public option on the ropes and a series of conservative Senate Democrats delivering ultimatums on health care reform, the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus want to make sure their voices don't get left out of the debate.
Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the caucus co-chairs sent a letter to President Obama Friday asking for a sit-down to reiterate their stated priorities for health reform and to press the president for a commitment to elements of their reform agenda.
"We have attached the Congressional Progressive Caucus' Principles that we expect to be included in the health care reform bill conference report," Grijalva and Woolsey wrote. "We look forward to meeting with you soon to discuss how we can work together to ensure these provisions are included in the final bill."
First among those provisions is, "The creation of a nation-wide public option, such as the one in the House bill," but the letter also calls for a state single-payer option like that proposed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and demands that any restrictions on abortion coverage -- like the House bill's Stupak-Pitts Amendment -- be excised from the final legislation.
While the White House has spent most of its time wooing conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), outrage among liberals has grown with each reform compromise. Grijalva has been one of the loudest voices on the left threatening to oppose a health care bill as weak as the deal currently being discussed in the Senate, which seems increasingly likely to end up even more compromised.
Just as Senate leadership dismisses the filibuster threat of Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who has vowed to hold up any bill without a public option, the White House has been criticized for dismissing the concerns of its liberal constituency. But there is a chance that if President Obama remains unresponsive to progressive concerns, he may gain a key handful of conservative votes only to lose his base.