Conservative Blue Dog Democrats ‘Pivotal’ To Health Overhaul
In his address to Congress on health care last week, President Obama attempted to reassure Blue Dog Democrats, such as Georgia Reps. Jim Marshall and Sanford Bishop, that the plan would not be too expensive or intrusive for their conservative constituencies, the Columbus, Ga., Ledger-Enquirer reports. The speech highlighted cost-cutting goals such as reducing Medicare and Medicaid fraud, scaled back the plan to around $900 billion, and "relaxed" the president's stance on the public option, messages that Bishop said "are consistent with Blue Dog principles."
Because health overhaul plans have not drawn bipartisan support and Democrats have a majority that would allow them to pass reforms without Republican cooperation, the conservative Democrat's voting bloc has "emerged as the pivotal group on health care reform," a Georgia political science professor told the Ledger-Enquirer (Abdullah, 9/14).
The need for more centrist legislation that will attract support from Blue Dogs was highlighted when Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday said, "This is about a goal. It's not about provisions," Roll Call reports. She had previously staked out liberal positions, in line with the leaders of her caucus, but now appears poised to compromise. Political observers say that's been her pattern on earlier, major legislation (Newmyer and Dennis, 9/14).
Other prominent Democrats in the House are also weighing revisions in their strategy. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a Pelosi ally, "is still waiting for the House to come up with a healthcare bill he would support even though he is a co-sponsor of measure that includes a single-payer provision," The Hill reports. Murtha told constituents late last month, "I haven't seen a bill I would vote for" and also said during the recess that "he didn't expect the final version of the healthcare reform to be passed until the first few months of 2010," according to The Hill.
Murtha is a co-sponsor of a universal, single-payer health reform bill originally proposed by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. A spokesperson said Murtha's August comments "were referring to the major bills under consideration, not Conyers' measure, which has not gained traction" (Crabtree, 9/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.