Steny Hoyer on Obama's bill: I'm not sure we can pass it

We already knew this, but it’s one thing to know it and another to have the House majority leader openly admit it two days before the big bipartisan health-care infomercial kabuki summit.


What was the point of The One drafting his own bill as a starting point for, ahem, “negotiations” if it’s a nonstarter even according to his own side?

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said comprehensive reform would be best but it’s not all or nothing.

“We may not be able to do all. I hope we can do all, a comprehensive piece of legislation that will provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans,” Hoyer said at his weekly media briefing. “But having said that, if we can’t, then you know me — if you can’t do a whole, doing part is also good. I mean there are a number of things I think we can agree on.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was a bit more optimistic about the prospects for Obama’s plan.

“I think it is getting a good reception in our caucus, but nonetheless we have more work to do to have everyone on board,” she said.

Why would Obama do a big public rollout of a bill before he’s even sure that it can pass the House? One possibility is Keith Hennessey’s “exit strategy” theory: The point isn’t to produce a bill that can pass, merely a bill that can be presented as a serious effort in preparation for blaming the GOP when it inevitably goes down in flame in the House. Another theory: Maybe the comprehensive bill is meant to be a red herring, so that Obama can turn around after the summit and announce that he’s decided to support a much smaller bill instead. An ostentatious display of scaling down would make him look reasonable and moderate (and more fiscally conservative than usual), and it’d have a much better chance of passing the House. That’s also my theory, essentially, about the recent nonsense over the public option. If the Dems pound the table about it and then give up on it — ostensibly to placate Republicans — they’ll look “bipartisan” and eager to compromise, which may help them marginally in November.


If that’s what’s going on here, though, then why did Gibbs shoot down the public option at today’s briefing instead of touting it in anticipation of a shootdown later? Lefty heart-ache:

Asked directly whether the President’s failure to include the public option in his proposal means he views the public option as dead, Gibbs didn’t exactly dispute this interpretation.

“There are some that are supportive of this,” Gibbs said. But he added: “There isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.”…

It’s unclear why Gibbs is deciding in advance that there isn’t enough support to pass this idea. Momentum has been gathering for days. It’s also very likely that it would continue to gain steam if Obama racks up a victory at the summit and Dems press forward with plans to pass reform themselves via reconciliation.

Follow the link for a withering quote from liberal health-care activist Adam Green accusing the White House of having a “loser mentality.” Fair enough, although if Hoyer’s right, Green doesn’t know the half of it. Congressional Dems were conspicuously silent about the public plan in their own health-care meeting today, so evidently there’s plenty of loser to go around.


I’ll leave you with a video treat from, which is as reality-based as ever. Exit question via the Standard: Why is Bill Clinton now referring to health-care reform in the past tense?

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