Blue Dogs Shaping Proposals, Influencing Other Centrists
A host of Democrats and Republicans now count themselves among the rolls of those who question the long-term costs and repercussions of health reform as reform efforts slow considerably, The New York Times reports.
"Many of the centrists said they shared the same concerns: that the legislation proposed so far is too expensive; does not sufficiently reduce health care costs over the long term; and would raise taxes too much, or in ways they oppose." Concerns have come from centrists from both parties, including the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dogs, Republican senators and representatives and others.
"If there is one thing centrists in the House and the Senate agree on, it is that they are being pushed way too fast to act on a hugely complex bill with an astronomical price tag of roughly $1 trillion over 10 years, prompting a loud chorus of demands to slow down. But aside from taking more time, and missing President Obama's deadline of having each chamber pass a health care bill before the August recess - a goal that seems impossible to meet - getting to 'yes' will require an artful set of compromises" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 7/22).
In the meantime, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she thinks she has the votes on the House floor to pass health reform, The Hill reports. "But Democratic opponents of the bill said Pelosi's vote count was somewhere between wildly optimistic and dead wrong. 'I don't know who's doing her vote counting, but she doesn't have the votes,' said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who has worked with the band of centrist Blue Dog Democrats blocking the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee. 'They're 100 votes away on a good day,' said another Democratic member" (Soraghan and Allen, 7/22).
Blue Dog health care leader Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark. told ABC News: "'No, I don't think they have the votes,' (Ross) said, arguing if that were the case he and the other six Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who have been holding up the bill in committee would be under far less pressure" (Tapper and Wolf, 7/22).
The Associated Press reports that the Blue Dogs are flexing their muscles: "On Wednesday, the Blue Dogs saw their organizing principle, a pay-as-you-go fiscal spending policy, pass the House by a 99-vote margin. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called a news conference to praise the group. Her second-in-command, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, thanked them from the well of the House chamber and called the group 'real Democrats' at a time when they are less popular with the party's liberal flank." In regard to the pending reform bill, "their list of 10 changes they wanted made... inspired Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to postpone a committee vote on it" (Kellman, 7/23).
NPR: "'We do have concern about making sure that there is competition among a lot of different providers of health insurance,' Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, tells Robert Siegel. 'We're worried that something along the lines of the public option is going to tilt the playing field in a way that isn't really competitive anymore'" (7/22).
Politico published a Center for Public Integrity examination on the Blue Dogs and campaign cash: "So far this year, the political action committee attached to the fiscally conservative House Democratic voting bloc is on track to shatter all its fundraising records, raising more in the first six months of 2009 - more than $1.1 million - than it did in the entire 2003-04 fundraising cycle. Nearly 54 percent of the Blue Dog PAC's haul this year comes from the energy, financial services and health care industries, up from 45 percent in 2004, according to analysis of CQ MoneyLine data by the Center for Public Integrity" (Israel and Mehta, 7/23).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., spent "hours" Wednesday negotiating with the Blue Dogs, Roll Call reports, but "the two sides emerged speaking different languages. Waxman said the Democrats were close to agreement and that he hoped to resume marking up the bill today. Blue Dogs offered a starkly different view, asserting that little progress had been made and that leaders would forge ahead at their own peril" (Newmyer, 7/23).
Democrats were successful, however, in blocking a GOP mailing Republicans wanted to send to constituents, Roll Call reports in a separate story: "The dispute centers on a chart created by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee to illustrate the organization of the Democratic health care plan. ... But a closer look at the image reveals a complicated menagerie of government offices and programs that Republicans say will be created if the leading Democratic health care plan becomes law. In a memo sent Monday to Republicans on the House franking commission, Democrats argue that sending the chart to constituents as official mail would violate House rules because the information is misleading." Roll Call says that "House Republicans are crying foul and claiming that the Democrats are using their majority to prevent GOP Members from communicating with their constituents" (Kucinich, 7/23).