House Dems warn Sebelius: No reform without public option

60 liberals write to the Health and Human Services secretary about her comments on healthcare legislation

Published August 18, 2009 2:35PM (EDT)

Last month, 57 liberal House Democrats wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among others, letting her know that they couldn't support a compromise on healthcare reform that had been worked out with the more conservative Blue Dogs. Now, with the public option under increasing threat as the administration appears to be offering it up as a sacrificial lamb, 60 House Dems have banded together to write a similar letter.

This one was sent Monday night to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius was the target because of comments she made on Sunday that appeared to signal the administration's willingness to give up on the public option. The letter that's been made public is actually signed by three members, but they included another letter that had the 60 signatures.

It's still possible that some or all of the people who signed the letter could be enticed to vote for a reform package that doesn't include a public option, but the fact that they've gone on the record saying otherwise makes that more of a longshot. And that might make final passage difficult.

Here's the full letter to Sebelius: 

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

We write to you concerning your recent comments about the public option in health insurance reform.

We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is “not the essential element” of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to healthcare is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real-not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies’ good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality.

To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.

We have attached, for your review, a letter from 60 Members of Congress who are firm in their Position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the President’s signature, MUST contain a public option.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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