Fish White House Logic On Public Option Revival


I don’t understand this White House logic reported by Ezra Klein:

For all that, I’d still bet against the public option. For one thing, there’s sharp resistance to this idea in the White House. The administration has just spent weeks rebranding itself as a bipartisan outpost in a sea of bickering hacks. Resuscitating the most controversial element of the bill and running it through reconciliation looks less like reaching out and more like delivering a hard left cross to the opposition.

Rewind the tape 12 months and this makes perfect sense to me. Progressives talk up public option through reconciliation. They write a letter. Senators start signing the letter. It’s picking up steam. But then well before the letter gets 50 signatories, the White House cuts the movement off at the knees by striking a deal with a handful of Republicans to pass a bipartisan comprehensive health reform bill through the regular order with no public option.

Back in the day, my impression was that that was more-or-less the plan. The public option was a kind of bargaining chip—a stick with which to threaten the insurance industry to get them to get Republicans to come to the table.

But obviously it didn’t work.

And while it’s true that the White House has sought to brand itself “as a bipartisan outpost” you know and I know and Ezra Klein knows and I certainly hope David Axelrod knows that at the end of the day if a health care bill emerges no Republicans will vote for it. And any shine of bipartisanship that Obama may or may not have put on himself is going to go away. So what’s the point in being “sharply opposed” to the public option concept? This is very bad logic, and if true very fishy behavior on the part of the White House. Given the level of liberal discomfort with the excise tax, the best policy option available would be for progressives to get their way on the public option (where progressives are right) and centrists to get their way on the tax question (where centrists are right) then you’d have an excellent bill. The path of least resistance is to do the reverse, but that would be a much worse substantive result.