By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Just days before President Obama is scheduled to address the nation in a televised attempt to restart his healthcare reform initiative, congressional Democratic leaders seem to have painted themselves into a corner on the very same issue.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to push for the so-called "public option," arguing as late as last week that it had to be included in any legislative vehicle the House would produce. "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option," she said at one recent press conference back in her San Francisco, Calif., district.
Backing her up on this is House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who agrees that any healthcare reform that is going to pass the Congress has to include the public option.
Hoyer said last week that House leaders are considering changes to their plan that, according to Bloomberg, include "raising the threshold for a proposed surtax on the wealthy to those earning at least $500,000 a year from $350,000. And, he added at the time, his support for public option was balanced against his plans "for passing a bill."
"We believe the public option is a necessary, useful and very important aspect of this, but you know we'll have to see because there are many important aspects of the bill," he said. But he also said, speaking earlier this week at a town hall meeting that was broadcast on C-SPAN radio, that any healthcare bill the Democrats would pass would "pay for itself" and would not include any tax increase.
So Pelosi says the bill has to have public option. Hoyer now says it can't raise taxes and has to be revenue neutral. Public option, revenue neutral and no tax increase? It can't be done. Not as a matter of politics but as a matter of economics. The money just isn't there, especially in light of the fact that Obama, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have, in just over six months, run up almost as much public debt as George W. Bush managed to do in his entire eight years in office.