Dems vs. Dems on health bill
By CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN | 6/11/09 4:18 AM EDT
Updated: 6/11/09 7:38 AM EDTText Size- + reset
When Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) called the public plan a deal breaker, a progressive group co-founded by Joe Trippi launched a campaign in Nebraska accusing the senator.
President Barack Obama's plan for a government health insurance program has touched off an increasingly fierce Democratic civil war on Capitol Hill, as liberals fearful about squandering the chance to achieve that goal are taking aggressive steps to keep moderates in line.
When Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) called the public plan a deal breaker, a progressive group co-founded by Joe Trippi launched a campaign in Nebraska accusing the senator of being a "sellout" for special interests.
After a strategy memo by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way cautioned Democrats on overreaching on a public plan, Daily Kos bloggers went on the attack, and Third Way now faces a coordinated effort to pressure Third Way donors.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is the next target. On Tuesday, she said she opposed the public plan. By Wednesday, the liberal Health Care for America Now was drawing up a plan to change her mind.
"It is all about Democrats," said Adam Green, chief executive officer of Change Congress, which launched the Nelson campaign. "We only need 50 votes. We could conceivably have 60 votes on our own if we keep Democrats unified. It is a matter of convincing Democrats whose conventional wisdom is based on the old political order. This is an extremely popular proposal spearheaded by an extremely popular president, and it is OK to support it."
Amid the signs of party discord, Obama is stepping up his personal efforts to push a public plan, with his first health-care town hall event Thursday in Green Bay, Wisc. On Monday, heíll travel to Chicago to address the annual meeting of the American Medical Association, which is not on board with a government insurance program.
AMA President Nancy Nielsen has raised concerns that the public option would underpay doctors, and the New York Times reported Thursday that the organization will oppose the proposal, which would deal a serious blow to Obama's effort to convince lawmakers and voters that a government plan is the way to go.