MEDIA

White House, Lawmakers, Knock Down Politico Article On Public Option

Over at the Politico this morning, Mike Allen has an "exclusive" on the public option's chances that basically differs from everything else everyone is saying about it this morning. Why is that? Probably because Allen isn't talking to the right people! As our own Sam Stein reports, people behind the scenes insist that this "exclusive" hangs entirely on "politically motivated leaks if not sheer speculation."

It also hangs on a weird take on what the alternative to the public option might be:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi counted votes Thursday night and determined she could not pass a "robust public option" -- the most aggressive of the three forms of a public option House Democrats have been considering as part of a national overhaul of health care.

Pelosi's decision--coupled with a significant turn of events yesterday during a private White House meeting--points to an increasingly likely compromise for a "trigger" option for a government plan.

While the "public option trigger" -- in which the public option would only be deployed if economic conditions were so bad that it became necessary -- is an alternative favored by Senator Olympia Snowe, no one in their right minds thinks that this is the policy on which the House is going to settle. As any savvy observer can attest, the hot new thing in the world of "public option compromise" is the "opt-out public option," which would allow any state to take a pass on the public option, if they so desired. Mike Allen's own reporting reflects this reality -- noting that Harry Reid "believes he can get 60 votes" for that alternative. That's clearly the step below the "robust" public option at this point -- not the "trigger."

Meanwhile, everyone is basically lining up to tell Mike Allen, who's got no on-the-record sources to back up his contention, that he's wrong about where the situation stands in the House, and wrong about President Barack Obama signalling support for a trigger:

--Nancy Pelosi's communications director, Nadeam Elshami, told Allen, "Speculation that a final decision has been made about the public option are not accurate. We continue to work with all the members of the caucus to build consensus."

--Kristie Greco, spokesperson for Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), says ""It's not true. No decisions have been made."

--Donna Edwards (D-Md.) tells the Huffington Post that Pelosi did not tell the caucus that a robust public option was dead Thursday night.

--Contrary to Allen's assertion that "Obama told Democratic leadership at the White House Thursday evening that his preference is for the trigger," The New York Times reports that "Mr. Obama asked questions, but did not express a preference at the meeting, a White House official said."

--The White House told Greg Sargent this morning that last night's discussion was "not about the public option in general. Rather, Reid was specifically raising the possibility of a public option with an opt-out clause as one potential route. On this specific policy option, the official says, 'the White House did not state a position either way.'"

--TPM is similarly reporting that the White House is "knocking down" the Politico account: "Senators are "still working through the substance and talking to their members about it," the source said. 'They didn't ask for the president's endorsement since no decision has been made.'"

--Valerie Jarrett says: "I don't know whether Mike Allen can actually count votes or not."

[WATCH]

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