‘Top Line’ — Liberals Pressed on Public Option

Aug 3, 2009 3:01pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Even as House Democrats fan out to their districts with new talking points that take on the insurance industry, liberal activists are growing concerned that Democrats’ health care bill won’t include a “public option” that competes with private insurers.

Jane Hamsher, the founder and publisher of the liberal blog FireDogLake.com, is helping organize a lobbying campaign designed to get members of the House Progressive Caucus to commit to only supporting a bill that includes a robust public option.

“We want Democrats to commit that they will support what 76% of the country want, what 60% of Republicans want, which is a public plan in this that competes with insurance companies — that [insurance companies] don’t like,” Hamsher told us today on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line.”

“Democrats, with a majority in the Senate of 60 votes, they have the presidency and they have a majority in the House. The president campaigned on this — this was part of his health care program. If they can’t deliver this right now, we’ve got real problems,” she added.

So far, 12 House Democrats have pledged to “vote against any health care bill that doesn't have a public plan,” according to Hamsher’s Website.

Asked about President Obama’s statement that he wants a public option in the bill, Hamsher said that’s not good enough.

“I was going to say — and I, you know, support world peace,” she said.

Hamsher and her allies are seeking to organize grass-roots events in the districts of liberal House members whose votes may be critical on health care.

The efforts reflect the fact that — as much as the White House and its allies wants to make health care into a battle between Democrats and Republicans — it’s Democrats’ fights with other Democrats that have slowed the legislative pace.

Other liberal groups have begun running ads targeting moderate Democratic senators, including Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. (After Nelson’s office denounced the ads late last week, the groups announced today that they’re tripling their ad buy.)

Hamsher said she welcomes the new Democratic offensive against the insurance industry:

“I can tell you that members of the Blue Dog coalition . . . have said that if somebody had launched a campaign against the insurance industries in their districts from the start that they would not have been able to resist. But that didn’t happen,” she said. “So, you know, we created this situation where there is no villain, and the public doesn’t understand what’s going on.”

Click HERE to see the full interview with Jane Hamsher.

Also today, we spoke with Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak about the difficulties Republicans will face on health care, if they’re put in the position of defending the insurance industry.

And we got Democratic strategist Penny Lee’s thoughts on whether President Obama could be rethinking his pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.

Watch the interview with Matt Mackowiak and Penny Lee HERE.

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