The Value Of Primaries: Specter's Support For A "Robust Public Option"

Whenever people ask why we should primary Democratic incumbents, you can talk about Jane Harman and now, Arlen Specter:

As debate continues on much needed health care reform, I urge my Senate colleagues to support a robust public option plan.

Here's the trick though, Specter writes "It's important that the President's ideas on the public option be implemented to maintain a level playing field." That's not a robust public option. Joe Sestak, Specter's primary challenger, will likely support a true robust public option in the House and beat Specter over the head with that vote. Would Sestak be a robust public option supporter otherwise? Hard to say. But we can say that because he is a primary challenger, he will be one.

Therein lies the value of primaries. Not necessarily winning them, but as a discipline mechanism.

Speaking for me only

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    Big fan of primaries (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:28:04 PM EST
    In fact, the only contributions I plan to make in 2010 and 2012 are to primary challengers to incumbent Dems.

    Hard to believe there is any controversy (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:35:35 PM EST
    about the value of primaries. God forbid we try to hold these guys accountable!

    You missed the Jim Cooper kerfuffle (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:57:51 PM EST
    We're interlopers don't you know?

    I remember it, but it is still hard to believe. (none / 0) (#16)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 02:01:28 PM EST
    He's one of 30 -- half the Senate Dems (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 06:38:19 PM EST
    writing Reid in the House to stand strong for a public option.  The rest of the Senate Dems are not for a real Dem bill?

    October 8, 2009
    The Honorable Harry Reid
    Majority Leader
    United States Senate
    The Capitol, S-221
    Washington, DC 20510
    Dear Majority Leader Reid:

    We have spent the better part of this year fighting for health reform that would provide insurance access and continuity to every American in a fiscally responsible manner. We are concerned that - absent a competitive and continuous public insurance option - health reform legislation will not produce nationwide access and ongoing cost containment. For that reason, we are asking for your leadership on ensuring that the merged health reform bill contains a public insurance option.

    As it stands, the health insurance market is dominated by a handful of for-profit health insurers that are exempt from the anti-trust laws that ensure robust competition in other markets across the United States. Without a not-for-profit public insurance alternative that competes with these insurers based on premium rates and quality, insurers will have free rein to increase insurance premiums and drive up the cost of federal subsidies tied to those premiums. This is simply not fiscally sustainable.

    We recognize that the two Committees with jurisdiction over health reform - the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee - have taken two very different approaches with respect to this issue. However, a strong public option has resounding support among Senate Democrats - every Democrat on HELP, three quarters of those on Finance, and what we believe is a majority of the caucus.

    The Senate Finance Committee included a cooperative approach to insurance market competition. While promoting more co-ops may be a worthy goal, it is not realistic to expect local co-ops to spring up in every corner of this country. There are many areas of the country where the population is simply too small to sustain a local co-op plan. We are also concerned that the administrative costs associated with financing the start-up of multiple co-op plans would far outstrip the seed money required to establish a public health insurance program.

    Opponents of health reform argue that a public option presents unfair competition to the private insurance companies. However, it is possible to create a public health insurance option that is modeled after private insurance - rates are negotiated and providers are not required to participate in the plan. As you know, this is the Senate HELP Committee's approach. The major differences between the public option and for-profit plans are that the public plan would report to taxpayers, not to shareholders, and the public plan would be available continuously in all parts of the country. The number one goal of health reform must be to look out for the best interests of the American people - patients and taxpayers alike - not the profit margins of insurance companies.

    Health reform is about improving access to health care, containing costs, and giving Americans a real choice in the insurance plan best suited to their needs. We urge you to fight for a sustainable health care system that ensures Americans the option of a public plan in the merged Senate bill.


    Sherrod Brown (D-OH) John D. Rockefeller (D-WV)
    Russell D. Feingold (D-WI) Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT)
    Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) Tom Udall (D-NM)  Kristen E. Gillibrand (D-NY) Roland W. Burris (D-IL)  Ron Wyden (D-OR) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)  Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)  Michael F. Bennet (D-CO) Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)  Jack Reed (D-RI) Jeff Merkley (D-OR)  Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)  Al Franken (D-MN) Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA)  Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI)
    Edward E. Kaufman (D-DE) Arlen Specter (D-PA)
    Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
    Bernard Sanders (I-VT) John F. Kerry (D-MA)
    Herb Kohl (D-WI) Paul Kirk (D-MA)

    the bigger trick (none / 0) (#1)
    by Illiope on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 12:58:37 PM EST
    specter will say anything, do anything, switch to any party to retain his position in the senate.

    You know, if you go to the link I posted below (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by scribe on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:32:02 PM EST
    on this comment thread, you'll see Specter saying, unequivocally and twice, that there is no way he would vote for a public option.

    A direct question, and a direct "no".


    I just hope the people who (none / 0) (#18)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 03:46:36 PM EST
    have Spector's name on their ballot are watching his behavior as a democrat. He conveniently didn't vote yesterday on Franken's bill ...

    True, but he's running out of parties (none / 0) (#3)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:02:16 PM EST
    Like Sestak says: (none / 0) (#6)
    by scribe on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:23:15 PM EST
    "If Specter wins the primary, the people of Pennsylvania will have two Republicans running for Senate in 2010."

    Sen. Bennet too in CO (none / 0) (#2)
    by magster on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:00:56 PM EST
    has been more vocal about his support of a public option since he got a primary challenge.

    IIRC - Sestak ariculated fairly (none / 0) (#21)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Oct 09, 2009 at 09:15:22 AM EST
    progressive HCR views when he ran for his House seat.  He's a navy guy so he knows "government" healthcare and believes in it.

    As long as Sestak (none / 0) (#4)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:10:48 PM EST
    has a good shot of winning against Toomey then he's got my support- Toomey seems like a dumber, more pious version of Santorum.

    dumber than santorum? (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by Illiope on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:20:43 PM EST
    i think we need a dumb-off to assess the veracity of that claim...

    Hey! Santorum endorsed Specter. (none / 0) (#7)
    by scribe on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:25:01 PM EST
    Along with Bush, Cheney, and every other Rethug out there....  I'd bet Toomey even endorsed Specter.

    Go watch.


    And more pious? (none / 0) (#13)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:37:33 PM EST
    Gees, he must really be bad.

    I've been impressed with Sestak, what I have seen of him over the last couple of years. I'm on his mailing list. I think he could beat just about anyone.


    when FOX supports it (none / 0) (#8)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:25:13 PM EST
    its getting safe even for Specter.

    Fox's Shep Smith Argues In Favor Of Public Option

    Shep Smith is not Fox (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:32:11 PM EST
    Shep Smith is wayyyyy out there all by himself on Fox.  There probably aren't even any staffers on Fox who agree with him on this.  Certainly the rest of their stable of shrieking on-air harpies doesn't.

    Shep Smith reported on Katrina in (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by hairspray on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 02:16:03 PM EST
    the wind and rain and almost choked up several times when describing the plight of the people there.  When O'Reilly tried to make the story one of 'people who brought it on themselves' he almost exploded. I think he is an outlier.  Wonder when they will sack him?

    I thought OReilly (none / 0) (#14)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 01:38:06 PM EST

    Winning (none / 0) (#19)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 08, 2009 at 04:29:10 PM EST

    IMO, the only way that the "discipline mechanism" (by which I think you mean that a challenger forces the incumbent to alter his/her position on an issue) has any value is if the challenger goes on to win the election.

    The incumbent who shifts a position under pressure from an opponent in a primary will always revert once elected.