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Rep. Raul Grijalva, Co-Chair of Progressive Caucus, Vows to Bring “Robust” Public Option to House Floor

StoryOctober 30, 2009
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We speak to Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. On Thursday, Grijalva said he was deeply disappointed at the healthcare bill unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has pledged to fight for a floor vote on including a robust public option in the bill. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We wrap up now with the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. That’s Arizona Democratic Congress member Raul Grijalva. On Thursday, he said he was deeply disappointed at the healthcare bill that was unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has pledged to fight for a floor vote on including a robust public option. Congress member Grijalva has also been a leading critic of the coup in Honduras. To talk about this and his meeting with President Obama yesterday at the White House, he joins us now from the Capitol.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congress member Grijalva. Well, what did you say to the President yesterday?

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Well, the meeting was the Progressive Caucus leadership, Hispanic Caucus leadership, Black Caucus leadership, Asian Pacific Caucus leadership, and basically brought out that now that we’re in this stage of having to deal with this negotiated rates that came out of the House, and something much worse coming out of the Senate, on a public option, that we felt — set some parameters of what we felt very strongly about, that the bill still needed to be strengthened; that there had to be cost controls on the private insurance companies, especially with negotiated rates, because they get to set the rates and we have to chase those rates with taxpayers’ dollar; and no triggers and no opt-outs, that we feel those are detrimental to the public interest and certainly to constituencies that have lacked the ability to access healthcare in this country for so many years.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Congressman Grijalva, did the President give you any indication that he would use of the immense persuasive powers of the White House to gain support from reluctant Democrats on the public option?

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Yeah, I think that was a point that was made emphatically by one of the members that was there, that, you know, while some people will say this is a victory — we resurrected the public option from the dead to where it is now being considered in both chambers. OK, that’s a good step. But now I think we need the full engagement of everybody in this discussion, and that includes the White House. You know, to cater to an Olympia Snowe or to a Lieberman, that fundamentally will restructure what a public option is in a very, very negative way, is not our idea of bipartisanship. And we really do feel that that engagement from the leader of this nation is vital, necessary, if we’re going to end up with anything that approaches a robust public option.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of Connecticut Senator Lieberman saying he’s going to join the Republican filibuster, coming from Connecticut, the home of the insurance industry?

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Well, you know, I think that was also an indication of how much he has received in the course of his career from insurance and pharmaceuticals, in terms of his campaign. Honestly, it didn’t surprise me at all. I think there was too much catering and too much coddling, too much courting of one or two votes, when I think the pressure should have been on them as either aligned Democrats or Democrats. We’re facing the most historic vote that any of us are going to take in our careers. And for procedural reasons or for other reasons, to threaten to filibuster, to threaten to scuttle, whether it is Senator Bayh, Senator Snowe, Senator Lieberman, I think they’re missing their opportunity with history, and I think the White House and leadership shouldn’t allow them to be absent in this fight.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Congressman, we just have twenty seconds. Your brief response to the apparent power-sharing deal in Honduras?

REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: I don’t — I’m not enamored with the idea, in a sense that it’s — all the parties have to be represented. There has to be a significant opportunity for democracy to really take hold there. And so, as we look more into it, we’ll have a firmer position. But at this point, I have more questions than praise for it at this point.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Grijalva, we want to thank you very much for being with us, the representative of Tucson, Arizona, and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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