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House Democrats Warm to Senate Compromise

House Democrats, including some prominent liberals, appear to be warming to the reported Senate health care compromise, despite the inclusion of a “trigger” for a public insurance option.

One prominent liberal, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), was unabashedly declaring victory, calling the proposal to allow people ages 55 and older to buy in to Medicare “way better than a public option” and “an unvarnished, complete victory for people like me who have been advocating for a single-payer system.”

Weiner, who along with other House Democrats want to see the Senate deal on paper, said the concept of expanding Medicare could lead in the future to a true single-payer system. A group of 10 liberal and moderate Democratic Senators hatched the tentative compromise Tuesday night that includes an expansion of Medicaid and Medicare. The deal also appears to do away with current provisions in the Senate bill creating a public insurance option that permits states to opt out. Instead, the Office of Personnel Management would essentially run government-sponsored insurance exchanges in which private companies would be allowed to compete for uninsured and small-business customers.

“Never mind the camel’s nose, we got its head and neck in the tent,” Weiner said.

Weiner noted that many liberal lawmakers wanted a single-payer plan from the beginning and shouldn’t fall too much in love with the public option, which was their compromise position.

Weiner also said it was “the weirdest Kabuki dance I’ve ever seen” to have moderate Democrats agree to an expansion of the country’s single-payer Medicare system in order to get rid of a watered-down public option.

Other liberal lawmakers wanted to hear more, however.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, isn’t necessarily demanding a public option.

“The goal is competition to the private providers and affordability to regular workers,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be called a public option.”

Woolsey and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, both strongly support the Medicare expansion, although Woolsey wanted to make sure that people will be eligible for subsidies so the coverage is affordable.

“What happens to those under 55?” Lee asked.

Other liberals were actively working against the emerging Senate deal, however.

Woolsey's Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent out a press release earlier this week slamming the deal, and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) sent out tweets Wednesday calling the potential for dropping the public option a “disaster” and urging advocates to contact their Senators.

Meanwhile, the House dispute over abortion remains a headache, despite the Senate’s vote to reject restrictive language sought by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

House abortion rights foes led by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) appear likely to balk at a final bill unless language similar to Stupak’s, which was included in the House bill, ends up in a final conference measure.

“I don’t see how they pass the bill in the House” with the existing Senate language, which allows people getting federal subsidies to buy insurance plans covering abortion, Stupak said Wednesday. “A number of us will not vote for the bill.”

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