House progressive caucus warns Obama against dropping public option in health care reform after Rahm undercuts reform effort to WSJ

UPDATE: Ezra Klein and Brian Beutler think that reports that Obama subsequently repudiated Emanuel’s comments are flat our wrong.

This is a rather significant political story for a number of reasons.

In the past 24 hours, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel undercut the health care reform public option by expressing his support for a “trigger” under which the public option wouldn’t come into existence unless the market couldn’t provide enough competition. Many on the pro- health care reform side of things think the trigger is simply a cute way to kill the public option. Thus, when Emanuel embraced it, it signaled that Obama was backing away from the public option.

Amazingly, liberal members of Congress and MoveOn fought back. The House Progressive Caucus wrote Obama a public letter telling him they’d walk if the trigger was included in legislation, and MoveOn asked its millions of members to express their disappointment to the White House.

I say “amazingly,” because up until now, members of Congress have been loathe to criticize Obama on anything, as have liberal groups. MoveOn, to its credit, has been trying to work with the administration as a friend, not an adversary. Today that all changed. This not only signifies that we may be reaching a perilous moment in the health care debate, but it also signifies that other constituencies, besides the gays, are becoming concerned with where this White House is headed on key legislative promises. For their willingness to speak out when it’s still not entirely PC to do so, the House Progressive Caucus and MoveOn both deserve our praise.

Liberal groups on Tuesday made it clear that they are not happy with news reports that the White House may be considering alternatives to a public plan in health care reform.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the 77-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, fired off a letter to President Barack Obama warning him against dropping a public insurance option from health care reform plans.

Grijalva described the “alarm and dismay” he felt after reading a Wall Street Journal story that cites White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel offering support for a “trigger” mechanism, under which a public plan option is only part of health care if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own.

“I want to be crystal clear that any such trigger for a strong public plan option is a non-starter with a majority of the Members of the Progressive Caucus,” Grijalva said….

Those with lingering concerns include the liberal group MoveOn, which sent an e-mail urging its millions of members to call the White House to express their disappointment with Emanuel’s comments.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is one of the main reasons Joe and I – who were both early Obama supporters, and raised $50,000 for him via this blog – have been so outspoken about the Obama White House’s inaction, and backtracking, on the president’s gay civil rights promises. We have long suspected that Rahm Emmanuel was the problem (though I’ve now heard from multiple sources that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also has a big problem with gay civil rights issues), whispering in Obama’s ear, pushing the president to abandon his campaign promises and take a more “moderate,” “centrist,” Republican course on our civil rights. Now we see the same concerns arising about Emanuel, that he is watering down the president’s promises – but the concerns are coming from members of Congress and MoveOn on an entirely different issue, health care reform. That is significant. And, as it is now also a trend, it is troubling, and has significance for every constituency seeking change via this administration.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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