White House officials are signaling publicly that they’re ready to take charge of the health care debate while strategizing privately (including a meeting with the president yesterday afternoon) about how to do it.
Here are the five key sets of questions they have to confront, both in the Roosevelt Room and in their consultations with Congress:
1 – What is “death with dignity” for the public option? Is it better for the president to sacrifice it himself? Or convince Democratic leaders behind closed doors to come to him? Some will argue for taking the public option issue to the floor, passing it through the House and sacrificing it in conference - but once you’ve gone that far, it may be impossible for House Democrats to back down. So, giving it up on the front end in some fashion is likely the preferred option.
2 – How do you get the price tag down, likely down to about $700 billion? At that cost the most unpopular tax increases will not be necessary. And moderates in both the House and the Senate have already signaled that they can live with it at that level. Which leads to question 3…
3 – Can you still make a convincing case that the country is on a path to universal coverage? What mix of phase-ins and triggers are necessary to make that case?
4 – Can these kinds of compromises attract any Republican votes beyond Olympia Snowe? If not, can they survive the procedural and political hurdles of the reconciliation process?
5 – And finally, how do you communicate all of this to the public? An address to the joint session of Congress is the leading option, either next week or the week after. The president is calling Congressional leaders today to discuss.