Partisan tensions on Capitol Hill flared up over the prospect of a public insurance option ahead of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform speech to Congress this evening.
Tensions rise in advance of Obama address
Obama's speech at 8 p.m. ET “will be the opening salvo” in an offensive by Democrats to counter “the huge amounts of misinformation” that was spread by the GOP and the insurance industry during the August recess, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) told reporters after emerging from a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus. Engel, along with other liberal Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, expressed support for the public plan—and misgivings about plans for a trigger that would initiate a public option component if insurance companies fail to make coverage more affordable.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, offered that “we need a trigger right now, not later.”
House GOP Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a news briefing countered that the public “doesn't want another lecture” on a government-run plan that many people would oppose. Lawmakers need to “stop, hit the restart button” and discuss health reform in a more bipartisan manner, he said.
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, said there was “good support” among her party for the public plan. However, if the president plans to sell this option, he needs to lay out more specifics, she said.
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