Blue Dog Democrats Flex Their Muscles On Health Care Reform

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 16, 2009

This has to be disconcerting for the Obama Administration, and other Congressional Democrats:

U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., a leader of fiscally conservative House Democrats, said Wednesday a House plan to overhaul the U.S. health-care system is losing support and will be stuck in committee without changes.

“Last time I checked, it takes seven Democrats to stop a bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Ross told reporters after a House vote. “We had seven against it last Friday; we have 10 today.”

Three House committees are slated to begin considering the $1 trillion-plus bill this week, but the Energy and Commerce looms as the biggest challenge. That’s because it counts among its 36 Democratic members seven members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a fiscally conservative bloc that is opposing the House Democrats’ effort.

Ross said the bill, introduced Wednesday by House Democratic leaders, doesn’t include provisions adequate to curb rising health care costs, including what the government spends on healthcare.

I would be surprised if some kind of grand bargain is eventually struck with the Blue Dogs. But will such a bargain survive the Senate, or a conference committee? That’s more doubtful.

UPDATE: More here. Evidently, there is trouble in Paradise:

Blue Dogs had aired their complaints last week in a letter to Pelosi that caused her to delay the rollout of the bill until Tuesday. But when the bill was introduced, they felt Pelosi and the committee chairmen who wrote the legislation hadn’t taken their concerns into account.

That led to a tense session between Pelosi and Blue Dogs at the group’s regular Tuesday meeting hours after the rollout.

“The meeting did not go well. She just kept saying it was a good bill,” said one Blue Dog.

“There is a growing perception among many of us that our leadership meets with us but doesn’t listen to us,” said another Blue Dog.

Many centrists say that much of the frustration stems from the vote on the climate change bill just before the Fourth of July break, and the feeling that it was “jammed down the throat” of centrist lawmakers.

Pelosi cut deal after deal with individual lawmakers to squeak the bill out of committee and to the floor. Then lawmakers flew home and had to battle criticism from voters at the same time Republicans were saying Democrats passed an “energy tax.”

“They went home and got beat up about energy,” said a senior aide to a Blue Dog lawmaker. “Now you’re going to jam healthcare down their throat and send them home for a month?”

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