October 9, 2009
On Pelosi Power: Public Option Still Viable
By Robert Weiner and Rebecca Vander Linde
Opponents' caricatures have become commonplace - the Republican
National Committee video puts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi side by side with
James Bond's villainess, Miss Galore. The Iowa Republican, a party newsletter,
on Sept. 18 called Pelosi "inept at her job." Actor and former Sen.
Fred Thompson labeled her "naive."
Rush Limbaugh's numerous jabs include "She can multitask. She
can breastfeed, she can clip her toenails, she can direct the House, all while
the kids are sitting on her lap." Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley
Pruden asserted that Pelosi's speakership is "about celebrating
On Sept. 10, master Republican strategist Karl Rove asked,
"How much capital will Speaker Nancy Pelosi have" to pass health
Pelosi answered that in a conversation Sept. 29 at House Judiciary
Committee Chairman John Conyers' 80th birthday party, after the Senate Finance
Committee had just rejected the Medicare-like public option for all by a 10-13
vote: "We will not be deterred. We will pass the bill."
The public option is still viable. The House is set to pass it. It
is neither "fading" nor "waning" (New York Times) nor on
"life support" (ABC News).
The House bill with a public option is strongly supported by
Pelosi and all three House committees that sent the bill forward. When it does
pass, compromises with the Senate of triggers and time delays and state
programs will occur. That's how the process works.
According to a CBS News poll, public support for the public option
rose from 57 to 68 percent after President Obama's speech to Congress last
month. People understand that real reform would counter the insurance
stranglehold that makes Americans pay almost twice as much as the rest of the
world while we rank behind 44 other countries in infant mortality and 49 in
Pelosi is now blending the three House versions - all with a
public option - and will bring the bill to the Rules Committee over the next
few days and the floor soon afterward.
For those who doubt Pelosi's ability to pass the bill, know that
she has passed every bill she has brought forward, usually
with 60-plus margins, since the Democrats recaptured the House in 2006. These
include the Recovery Act, Credit Card Bill of Rights, Homeowner Affordability,
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay, Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and State
Children's Health Program expansion to 11 million youths.
Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he could not vote
for the public option because "I can't see how we get to 60 votes."
The Constitution and the law require only a majority 51. The Senate amended its
rules to require a "supermajority" to end debate. This procedure,
called cloture, is a pander to allow special-interest contributors (Baucus has
a million dollars from insurance companies) to block bills. Pelosi is right to
support Senate "reconciliation," which would allow a simple majority
to pass health reform Americans want.
A true reading of her performance should brand her as the Lyndon
Johnson of the House. Just as Johnson did when he served as the Senate's
majority leader, Pelosi works from the inside to ensure efficient passage of
Health care - and the public option - will probably be no
chief of staff of the House Aging Committee and Health Subcommittee. Rebecca
Vander Linde is research chief at Robert Weiner Associates.
This article appeared on page A - 15 of the San Francisco Chronicle