Progressives Plan Bicameral Health Care Huddle on Tuesday

Posted February 8, 2010 at 4:30pm

House and Senate progressives plan to huddle Tuesday evening — weather permitting — to strategize on how to revive the public option in the health care reform debate.

Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), who co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will attend the meeting, as well as Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and other members of the CPC Health Care Task Force. Senators expected to attend include Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Grijalva said he organized the gathering for progressives to brainstorm ways they can work together to pass their priority pieces of health care reform. In addition to the public option, progressives are pressing for repealing the antitrust exemption for insurance companies and eliminating the “doughnut hole” for Medicare drug insurance.

The Arizona Democrat said progressives feel they may have a window to resurrect the public option — which has been left for dead for months in the face of strong Senate opposition ­— since President Barack Obama announced Sunday that he will host a bipartisan forum on Feb. 25 to weigh ideas for moving ahead with a health care overhaul.

“Everything is in suspended animation until the 25th or after that; we have time to do a little more,” Grijalva said.

As for how to deal with Senate Republicans threatening to block any Democratic health care plan, Grijalva said he will urge Senate progressives to “let them filibuster. That will give our constituents an opportunity to weigh in.”

Beyond health care, progressives will likely discuss any concerns they have with aspects of the education budget that Obama wants to freeze and what kind of jobs package they can support.

Grijalva said the meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. in an to-be-determined location in the Capitol, weather permitting.