Critical Condition

Public Option: Only Mostly Dead

Now that the people, er, the Senate Finance Committee, have spoken in opposition to a government-run health plan, we are seeing significant pushback on the Left to keep the so-called public option alive. The Daily Beast reports that some elements on the Left are in revolt over its non-inclusion. E. J. Dionne makes the unusual argument that a public plan is a centrist approach. And newly elected union boss Richard Trumka makes the public plan one of his top demands in a meeting with the White House.

Some of this, of course, comes from a sincere desire to see a public plan. Trumka sees the possibility of a new government-run health plan creating many more government jobs. The National Health Service in England employs 1.4 million people, and Trumka knows that public-sector workers are about five times as likely to be unionized as private sector ones.

It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if the Obama White House were encouraging at least some of the noise, so they could characterize a bill without a public plan but with no Republican support as a centrist alternative, one that disappointed both Left and Right. We saw some of this triangulating rhetoric in the president’s Joint Session speech, and I expect to see more of it, aided by the kind of stories mentioned above, in the weeks ahead.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide. His latest book is Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.