"We're the group that speaks to the righteousness of an issue, [but] inevitably the decisions about how that issue's going to be addressed are conducted somewhere else," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), describing the traditional fecklessness of progressives in Congress. "The fact that we have stuck to our guns about the public option has surprised people."
A majority of the 81 Congressional Progressive Caucus members of the House have vowed to oppose any health care bill that does not include a "robust public option." That threat has kept it alive. With 256 seats in the House and 218 needed to pass a bill, Democrats simply can't move health care reform on their own without progressive caucus support.
"It's not a question of allow. It wouldn't have the votes," she said.When the White House went squishy last week on the public option ("not essential"/"one sliver"/"a piece"), Pelosi returned to the basic calculus. "There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option," she said.
"Quite frankly, we got motivated because there were other caucuses in the Democratic caucus who seem to get disproportionate attention based on their numbers," said Ellison.The Blue Dogs only number 51. "And we're like, wait a minute, we've got 80-plus members. How can we be ignored?"
"We've done our compromising and we're not compromising any more. We've got our shot. Let somebody else show some flexibility now," said Ellison.
As the prospect of a bipartisan bill fades, progressives hopetheir hand will be increasingly strengthened as Obama realizes where his allies are. "The White House does not know how to use the progressive community. They see us as kind of money in the kitty already," said Ellison. "The White House should be saying to the Blue Dogs and to the right wing, 'I cannot give you what you want because I have a progressive community that we're accountable to.'"