by Cliff Weathers
Congressman Eliot Engel (D, NY-17) has joined progressives in the House and Senate in sternly warning the Obama administration that no health-care legislation will pass without a government-run “public option” plan.
Engel told Politico: ‘€œWithout that [public] option there will not be enough votes in the House to pass that bill.’€
The Congressman, who represents parts of the Bronx, Westchester, and Rockland, also chastised Senate Democrats, particularly Montana Senator Max Baucus (D) for holding the legislative process hostage:
‘€œThe Senate needs to understand that they are one-half of the process, not the entire process,’€ said Engel. ‘€œThis is not a matter of [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus or anybody else negotiating a bill, than coming to the House and saying, ‘€˜take it or leave it.’ That’s not how it works.’€
While Engel’s words are a strong warning to the Administration and Sen. Baucus, he is not among the 57 House members that sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week and 18 more that took a pledge stating that they would vote against any health care reform bill that didn’t include, at the minimum, a robust public option.
It is not clear whether the White House is shifting away from the public option, but the rhetoric has been softened as of late. President Obama said on Saturday that the public option is just a ‘€œsliver’€ of the overall package, followed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius commenting that it wasn’t essential. However, administration spokespersons are now backtracking and saying that the alleged shift away from the public option is no shift at all and that President Obama still insists that the public option is the best way to provide needed competition with the insurance industry.
Along with Engel, representatives Nita Lowey (D, NY-18) and John Hall (D, NY-19), who also represent parts of Rockland, support the public option and according to Rockland Business Digest, all three will hold public forums on the health care plan. Spokespersons for Lowey and Engel say they plan to hold town halls sometime in late August, with times and venues to be announced. And although his staff did not confirmed it when talking with Rockland Progressive Democratic Caucus members, it is rumored that Hall will hold four town-hall style events across his widespread district.
This article is cross-posted at the Rockland Progressive Dems Web site.