Blue Dogs see alternatives to public option

Blue Dog Democrats have joined the wrestling match within the party about what President Barack Obama was saying about his healthcare plan in a joint session of Congress last week.


The conservative Democratic Coalition sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday, a week after the speech, praising the flexibility he is showing on the contentious issue of whether to include a public option in Congress's healthcare overhaul.

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"We appreciate your openness to alternative ideas on how to achieve more choice and competition in the insurance market," said the letter, signed by Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) and the rest of the Blue Dog leadership. "Too much of the debate has focused on this single issue, and while an important issue to address, we cannot let our disagreements over it stand in the way of the larger goal of enacting healthcare reform."

Obama stated his support in the speech for a public option, a government-run plan that he says would reduce costs by introducing more choice in the healthcare market. But he also indicated he was open to "co-ops," which are popular among Senate Democrats, and leaving it as a fallback option, a position supported by the Blue Dogs.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Blue Dogs' rival within the Democratic Caucus, wrote a letter last week that came to the opposite conclusion about Obama's speech.

"We were pleased that you explicitly expressed your support for a public option as a central piece of achieving true reform," said the letter, signed by the co-chairmen of the Progressive Caucus. The letter asked for a meeting with the president to define the public option. They have not yet had a meeting.