While a bipartisan group of lawmakers begin a six-hour-long health care summit on Thursday, it’s worth noting that Republicans aren’t the only ones dissatisfied with the president’s agenda.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered fairly sharp criticisms of Obama for failing to show the requisite leadership needed to add a government-run insurance option to the final legislative package. Asked about the administration’s argument that the provision lacked the votes needed for passage, even through reconciliation, Sanders replied:
I think the president is wrong. I think it is a public mistake. I think the people, for all the right reasons, distrust private insurance companies. I think they want to look to a Medicare-type public option. I think they should have that choice. And second of all, at a time when health care costs are soaring, vis-à-vis that 39% increase in California and all over the country, what a public option can do is keep private insurance companies honest, give people an option, hold them accountable. So I think the president is wrong and I think we should go forward and I think we could get the 50 votes that we need under reconciliation.
Sanders, in the end, will vote for a health care bill, even if it lacks a public plan. His Republicans colleagues, by contrast, won’t meet him halfway. And herein lies much of the senator’s frustration. Thursday’s summit is, ostensibly, about promoting bipartisan unity around health care legislation. But on the structural issues in the bill, sacrifices have already been made by Democrats to the benefit of Republicans. Only, that was never reciprocated with GOP votes.
A new state-by-state survey shows that the Senate health care bill is unpopular, the public option is extremely popular and voters would rather support a senator who fights for a partisan bill with a public option rather than one who goes along with a bipartisan bill that doesn’t include a public option.