Personalities: Democrats Continue To Wrangle While GOP Seeks To Make Use Of Summer Momentum Gains
Top health care negotiators for a group of fiscally conservative Democrats are seeking to bolster their positions with key Democrats and Republicans ahead of the stretch run at health care reform.
The Hill: "A top Blue Dog is calling for a truce in the war of words with liberal members of the Democratic Caucus who have been firing off insults at Blue Dogs who slowed the progress of health legislation. In a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) called for unity and asked for the public criticism to stop. But another critic, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), said she had no plans to mute her criticism. 'Hell, no,' Waters said. 'Progressives have a voice in this caucus, and we're not going to back down'" (Soraghan, 9/9).
In the meantime, a leader of the Blue Dogs is negotiating with a key Republican on reform, The Hill reports in a second story. "According to GOP sources, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), who was the lead negotiator for the conservative Blue Dog Democrats during the markup of the Energy and Commerce portion of the healthcare bill, has been in talks with Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) in an effort to find 'workable solutions' to the healthcare stalemate that could 'win broad bipartisan support.' But, secretively, Ross and Boustany have been in talks for weeks, these sources said, and were scheduled to meet again on Wednesday afternoon in Ross's office," just hours before President Barack Obama's speech (Allen, 9/9).
Roll Call: A key Republican negotiator in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, "said Wednesday afternoon that he remains committed to the bipartisan health care talks in his committee, while signaling that he can work with the framework Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) proposed for a reform bill. However, Grassley conceded that he has problems with Baucus' proposal, and said he submitted counterproposals earlier Wednesday. Grassley also acknowledged he might ultimately not be able to sign onto the bill" (Drucker, 9/9).
Back in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are trying to cool tensions on a public plan option, Politico reports. "Pelosi and Hoyer, longtime rivals and often effective allies, have chafed against each other during the tense, tiring negotiations over health care reform, with Pelosi voicing the concerns of progressives and Hoyer publicly adopting a more conciliatory tone in his role as ambassador to the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs" (O'Connor and Thrush, 9/10).
Politico in a second story reports that Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina says he could live with a public option "trigger" plan "if it included a 'widespread' pilot program that tested the effectiveness of the public option in states that decided to participate" (Thrush, 9/10).
And Calif. Rep. Barbara Boxer said she'll use the argument to lawmakers that they are already on a government-run public option to gain their support, The San Francisco Chronicle reports: "She said most members use the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, just the kind of insurance exchange that is a key feature of Obamacare. 'How many Senators chose that public option,' Boxer asked. 'I want to know.' She said she thinks the question could sway some of her colleagues (Lochhead, 9/9).
As Democrats wrangle among themselves, the GOP is trying to use their August gains to create a more permanent mandate from the public, Roll Call reports in a second story. "'I think it's very clear that the members of the Republican Conference feel strongly ... that the wind is at our back primarily because of fierce debate over the president's health care plan,' House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters Wednesday morning. In both the House and the Senate, Republicans are gearing up messaging efforts that will build on the successes of the August recess while at the same time seeking to reap the financial benefits of renewed public skepticism of Democrats" (Kucinich and Stanton, 9/10).