Two major progressive voices in the health care debate took White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to task on Tuesday for suggesting that a public option with triggers could be a potential compromise on reform.
One of those voices, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) went so far as to insist that some Senate Democrats would vote against any proposal that didn't include a strong government-run option. Even the bill being crafted by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Sanders noted, might not get the caucus' full support because it could stray too far away from an effective overhaul of the health care system.
"I think that it is fair to say that there are a number of us who would not be voting for anything resembling a Baucus-type plan as we understand it right now," the senator told the Huffington Post, referring to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus' effort at constructing a reform bill.
In separate interviews, Sanders and his fellow Vermonter, former DNC Chair Howard Dean, both took umbrage with comments Emanuel made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that was published Monday evening. The White House chief of staff did not deviate fully from the administration's line, suggesting that all prospects for reform remained on the table. But Emanuel added something that health care operatives said they hadn't heard from the White House to date: a statement of support for a health care insurance compromise based on a public option with triggers.
The president would, hours later, issue a statement reiterating his support for a "public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest." Progressives, fearing in part that the frame of the health care debate would be irrevocably shifted, pushed back.
"I think that a public plan with triggers is not a real public plan and it is going to be a trillion dollar failure," Dean said. "Anyone who thinks a trigger is going to lead us to a good place five years from now is wrong... It is not a sensible policy compromise."