The intensity is ratcheting ever higher as we move toward the final stages of the health care fight. It's been a good week for reformers overall. Pelosi and Reid are both whipping for strong bills, including a very strong public option (in the House) or a respectable public option (in the Senate). Progress is being made on other key components of the package including the affordability issue. Even traditional media sources like the Washington Post and the New York Times are waking up to the fact that even though they have been declaring health care reform on life support and the public option dead for six months, something decent might actually pass.
The only down moment of the week has been the confusion caused by the White House on the Senate strategy. This whole muddled are-they-or-aren't-they backing Harry Reid or backing Snowe's trigger-designed-not-to-trigger mess was just a poorly handled distraction. I mean, look, anyone who has been in DC longer than a week knows that if you have a meeting at the White House with more than five people in it, that certain folks with their own agenda will start leaking stuff to the media, so whatever the intent of all that was, it was bound to undermine Reid and our overall momentum. The White House is now on the record denying that was their intent, and folks there have sworn to me they are backing Reid to the hilt, so I believe them and that's all good, but it was still a mess.
I think we're still moving forward, though. The next few days will tell us what kind of deals can be cut, but no matter what, I think the strategy for progressives remains the same as it has been from the beginning of this fight:
1. House progressives have to stay strong and united in pushing for a strong public option and more affordability for the middle class. Health care reform will not pass without the votes of the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and they need to continue to say a big "Hell no" to triggers that are written to never trigger and co-ops that are designed to never compete with the insurers. If House progressives absolutely refuse to fold, the final bill will have a solid public option and decent affordability for the middle class.
2. The 30 core progressives on health care in the Senate need to stay strong and stay together as well. They need to keep pushing Reid and the White House to reject the Snowe trigger that will never trigger, and they need to twist the arms of their last couple of colleagues who are holding out. The idea that one or two Senators are going to stop the entire rest of the Democratic party from delivering on the biggest issue in front of Congress in 50 years is an outrage, and those Senators should be told in no uncertain terms that nothing they want will ever again see the light of day if they support the Republican filibuster on this issue.
3. Everyone in the broader progressive community needs to be 100% clear that the Snowe trigger written to never trigger is deader than a doorknob. To call this a compromise is actually pretty funny. Fundamental to health care reform is real competition and a check on the market power of the insurance industry. Without that, private insurers will continue to raise their rates and otherwise screw people over at will. The trigger as written by Snowe has a Catch-22 in it that makes sure it would never be triggered in real life, so it would provide no competition or check on insurance power whatsoever. Come on now: if you are going to ask progressives to compromise, don't give us something that is no compromise. Most progressives understand we need to compromise some, and in fact we already have compromised an enormous amount, but we aren't going to let you give us nothing.
I think we are still on track to win this fight and get a very decent health care bill, and in fact the momentum is building. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid deserve an enormous amount of credit for continuing to push forward on a strong bill in spite of all the obstacles being thrown in their way. Progressives need to stick together and not allow themselves to get rolled on phony compromises. If they do, we are going to be able to celebrate a huge victory before the year is out.