Fiscally Conservative Democrats Issue Principles for Health Reform, Continue To Seek Greater Role in Process
The fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition on Tuesday issued a set of guidelines for health reform and said they want to hold a more productive role in developing health care reform legislation, The Hill reports (Young/Allen, The Hill, 5/12). The group on Monday sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and House Education and Labor Committee Chair George Miller (D-Calif.) criticizing the committees' lack of inclusivity in drafting reform legislation (Murray, Roll Call, 5/13).
According to Roll Call, the group's guidelines did not address whether to include a public insurance option in an overhaul bill. Blue Dog health care task force Chair Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said the issue was purposely omitted. Ross added that the group is "willing to be open-minded and consider those types of options, but we want to be involved" (Dennis, Roll Call, 5/13).
A coalition statement said that fiscal considerations should be a high priority in the health reform debate. Ross said, "We cannot get our nation's fiscal house back in order or have long-term economic prosperity until we contain the skyrocketing costs of health care," adding, "Forty percent of every tax dollar paid today goes to fund Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security; by 2040, that number will reach 100% if we do nothing." He also said that "moderate voices should have a key role in this debate and we must never lose sight of how these reforms will impact small businesses and working families across this country" (Murray, Roll Call, 5/13).
A Blue Dog aide said, "This is not something that should pass with 218 votes. It is something that should pass by a large bipartisan margin on the House floor" (Dennis, Roll Call, 5/13). According to The Hill, the 51-member coalition "intends to stick together" and could represent a "significant bloc" in any House vote (The Hill, 5/12).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the group's request is "reasonable," and that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have decided to seek greater participation from rank and file Democrats. He said, "We're going to expand -- the speaker and I both want to pursue expansion of communications between all members of the caucus and the committee chairs," and "I think the committee chairs want to do so as well" (The Hill, 5/12). CongressDaily reports that Hoyer and Pelosi plan to expand health care reform discussions to include several of their party's caucuses. They intend to meet with Blue Dogs, New Democrats, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Tri-Caucus of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (Edney, CongressDaily, 5/12).