Last Friday, TPMDC reported that although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was very close to rounding up 60 votes for a public option with an opt out clause, the White House was pushing him to do with the public option with a trigger instead, in order to (maybe or maybe not) get Olympia Snowe‘s official seal of bipartisan approval.
That led to angry reactions from liberal Democrats. Which led the White House to deny TPMDC‘s story.
It was a pretty weak denial, though. After saying “The report is false”, all that Deputy White House Communications Director, Dan Pfeiffer, offered was:
The White House continues to work with the Senate on the merging of the two bills. We are making good progress toward enacting comprehensive health reform.
Bland, uninformative, and devoid of any substantive content.
So last night Dan Pfeiffer tried another denial, this one posted on the White House web site. The entire post reads:
A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false.
In his September 9th address to Congress, President Obama made clear that he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition. That continues to be the President’s position.
Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get the most effective bill possible approved by the Senate. President Obama completely supports their efforts and has full confidence they will succeed and continue the unprecedented progress that is being made in both the House and Senate.
In many circles, that is being celebrated as proof positive that Obama was not pushing Harry Reid to embrace the trigger option in the hope of picking up Olympia Snowe’s priceless vote.
I’m not sure that’s warranted.
First, the crux of the matter is whether the President supports Reid on the opt-out public option or is pressuring him into embracing the triggered public option. For Obama’s official spokesman to say that the President continues to support the public option clarifies diddly-squat.
Second, what is contained in “the most effective bill possible” that Senator Reid and his leadership team are now working to get approved by the Senate? Is it still the opt-out public option or is it now the triggered public option?
The fact of the matter is that Dan Pfeiffer’s statement is fully consistent with the President already having prevailed on Harry Reid to abandon the opt-out public option for the triggered public option. In other words, it’s a classic non-denial.
*** Update, 6:15 a.m. ***
Jonathan Cohn, in The New Republic late last night:
On Sunday, a senior administration official told TNR
We will be 100 percent behind whichever direction Reid decides to go. … Reid hasn’t asked for help. He is polling his caucus to make a decision on the opt out or the trigger. Whichever way he chooses, president Obama will help make the sale publicly and privately.
But he wasn’t willing to say that on the record, was he? And this statement just underscores the kind of clear-cut statement Pfeiffer could have made but very carefully didn’t.