Article: Progressive Caucus Plans Health Care Pitch for White House Meeting (CQ)


Progressive Caucus Plans Health Care Pitch for White House Meeting
By Alan K. Ota, CQ Staff

Progressive Democrats plan to remind President Barack Obama of his liberal roots in a meeting Tuesday and press him to deliver on an expanded federal role in providing health care coverage.

Obama has caught the attention of liberals by wooing centrists and vowing to cut deals on issues such as health care. Last month, he raised eyebrows when he described himself as New Democrat at a meeting with members of the more-moderate New Democrat Coalition.

Now, liberals are pressing Obama to make sure that any deal includes a government alternative to private insurers. Raúl M. Grijalva , D-A.Z., co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says the 78-member group will push for a government-run insurance option in a scheduled meeting at the White House.

“Some of our members want a single-payer system. But at a minimum, as a caucus, we want a public plan option,” Grijalva said. He and Lynn Woolsey , D-Calif., another CPC co-chairman, warned party leaders in an April 2 letter that CPC members “will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option.”

For his part, Obama hopes to drum up support for his $83.4 billion request of supplemental war funds. Grijalva said he and some other progressives were undecided and wanted more details about growing military efforts in Afghanistan.

Grijalva said progressives see Obama as an ally based on triumphs such as the economic stimulus law (PL 111-5) and an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (PL 111-3). Now, they want Obama to stick to his liberal game plan rather than veering to the center.

“It’s possible to be both a progressive and a New Democrat. Some lawmakers do that,” said Darcy Burner, the new executive director of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, a support group for the CPC.

“He can be many things to many people,” Grijalva said.