Barack Obama’s Health-Care Dilemma

20090627issuecovus400 Last month Bill Clinton urged President Obama not to give in to Republican demands for a weakening of the public option. At the time, it seemed like the only support Obama would have to struggle to gain would be from the right. But now, as budget talks intensify in the Senate and House, there’s clearly less solidarity in the Democratic Party than was originally thought. As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, fiscally conservative (if only sometimes) Blue Dog Democrats are balking at the public option, which they’d only approve as a backup plan if competition doesn’t lower costs and make insurance universal. The party’s left leaners, however, view the public option as mandatory for any real public-health overhaul, and have become frustrated that Obama seems to have softened his stance. Obama has said he will not sign “a bill that won’t work.” But he has also made it clear that bipartisan support will be crucial, especially now that members of his own party are seemingly backing out on one of what is arguably the bill’s most important features. As Obama seeks support for the new health-care bill (presumably including the public option) over the next month, it will be interesting to see on which side of the fence he ultimately lands. Does he stand by the public option and hope the Blue Dogs come around when it’s time to count the votes? Or does he ease toward the middle and sacrifice one of his plan’s pillars? With a receding approval rating, rising unemployment, and a bill such as this to push through congress, I don’t envy the man’s job.

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