Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Senator Maria Cantwell tells Bill Press: "Yes, I do" support a robust public option

It looks like the question of whether Senator Maria Cantwell is really for a public option or not has finally been answered.

On Friday, Washington's junior senator appeared on the nationally syndicated Bill Press Show to talk healthcare reform. Bill asked her, explicitly, why a public option wasn't on her list of healthcare priorities, and then asked her to confirm that she is, in fact, for a robust public option (as opposed to just being "open" to the idea).

Cantwell went on the record as saying that she likes the language in the bill drafted by the Senate HELP Committee, and wants it to be a model for the bill the Finance Committee ultimately comes up with. Here's the transcript from the show:
BILL PRESS: Senator Maria Cantwell, from the State of Washington, our guest here on the Bill Press Show. Senator, I have your website up on my computer this morning. I checked it out. Under Senator Cantwell's healthcare priorities... and when you click to that page, you've got a list of them: Preserving Medicare for Washington seniors, helping children get quality care, Medicaid, healthcare for those who need it most, ensuring rural access to care, using technology better, small business health insurance, expanding the health provider workforce, recruiting and retaining nurses... all good stuff! What's missing is a public plan option! Why isn't that on the list?

SENATOR CANTWELL: Well, it should be. Because we certainly believe that cost containment... and getting health insurance costs down [is critical]. If you look across the country, there are health insurance plans that, you know, are forty or fifty percent of the market...


SENATOR CANTWELL: which case they have very little competition. And if we are going to get true competition for the health, uh, the... for premiums, to drive down costs, a public option is the best way to do that.

BILL PRESS: So, do you support the public plan option? Yes or no?

SENATOR CANTWELL: Yes, I do. And I think that the HELP Committee did a good job of outlining it in their bill, and I think that we should try to get similar language in the Finance Committee... And we're going to be working with Senator Rockefeller and others to do that.

BILL PRESS: And uh, the Chairman, your Chairman [Max Baucus] has said... I saw again this morning... he says, basically, that um, Democrats ought to just forget about the public plan option.

SENATOR CANTWELL: Well, I disagree, in the sense that the public plan... if you think about what Medicare has been able to do, or you think about what, you know, competition really can do if we would have put the prescription drug benefit under Medicare, it would have driven down price. And the concentration of the insurance companies in these markets... and they have made... so while our, while individual wages may have gone up twenty four percent, healthcare costs, as I've said, have gone up a hundred and twenty percent over a ten year period of time. But insurance profits have gone up four hundred and twenty eight percent over that ten year period of time. So obviously, there's something going on here, where they're making a lot of money, and not driving down costs. And competition from a public option would help do that. And I think as we get into the heart of the debate, I think we can make this point, and I think we will be successful in picking up people who, who understand how important... Now, I talk to Republicans who don't want to cover people, who say, I do want to cover the uninsured, and the forty seven million people... I think when they look at this, they're going to see that having a public option is gonna be a very... the best way to provide competition.

BILL PRESS: Well... I'm glad to hear you say that, and I certainly hope you're right, I hope that that... position prevails in the end. But I'm worried about, you know, Senator Conrad, also, who's a good friend, neighbor here on Capitol Hill, who's come up with this idea of the co-op. And it seems that's the way that he and Chairman Baucus wanna go. The co-op is just... let me ask you the question: Do you think that's an acceptable option to the public plan option, or alternative?

SENATOR CANTWELL: Well, I think the devil's in the details. And I think right now, the way that they're probably looking at a co-op, is probably not the aggressive form of a public option that many would like to see, including myself. And so... I think that's going to be part of the debate.
Hallelujah. Well, that's one less progressive senator we have to worry about waffling on the public option. We're not sure why she couldn't make this crystal clear months ago, but we're glad to hear it now.

Press, incidentally, mentioned Cantwell's appearance on his show last night at AM 1090's forum in Kent at the ShoWare Center, assuring the audience that Cantwell had clarified her support for a strong public option, to great applause.


Blogger The Raven said...

I think the wingnuts have finally persuaded her.

August 9, 2009 4:24 PM  
Blogger WSPC Member said...

Well, I'd wait to see the language before I applaud her. And I wouldn't call her " one less progressive senator we have to worry about waffling on the public option". She is not 'progressive' by my definition.

August 9, 2009 6:07 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

WPSC Member, Cantwell may not be as progressive as those of us in the trenches, but as far as Democratic senators go, she's part of the more progressive half. She has nearly a 90% score with Progressive Punch. Her lowest subcategory score is Corporate Subsidies (65%), although ironically she did vote against the bank bailout.

(The Senate's current, most progressive members, lifetime score, are Roland Burris - don't laugh, it's true - Sherrod Brown, and Jeff Merkley).

August 9, 2009 6:38 PM  
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August 10, 2009 8:09 PM  

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