Health Care Reform: Calling The House Democratic Leadership's Bluff

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 24, 2009

Because Blue Dog Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have joined up with Republicans in order to object to the House’s version of health care reform, committee Chairman Henry Waxman is now threatening to bypass his own committee, and bring a bill directly to the floor of the House for a vote. Otherwise, Waxman warns, Republicans on the committee may be “empower[ed].” And we can’t have that.

I understand that in politics, hardball is played when it comes to negotiations, but it isn’t as though this approach does not carry with it some risks of its own:

Democratic critics of the bill have warned that the bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass on the floor, and say an end-run around the committee would galvanize opposition among centrists.

“That would clearly ruffle some feathers,” said an aide to a Blue Dog lawmaker.

I am not a member of the House, of course. Nor am I a staffer. So this advice, if taken, could completely backfire, but I have to think that if the Democratic leadership had the votes to pass its bill, it would have sought to do so by now. It has not. And perhaps, the reason it has not has to do with the fact that it might not have the votes, the claims of the Speaker and the rest of the leadership notwithstanding.

So, if I were a Blue Dog Democrat, I might be more than willing to call Waxman’s and Pelosi’s bluff, and dare them to bypass the Energy and Commerce Committee, and withstand the fury of a lot of ticked off Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans in the process. Even if the gamble succeeds, the leadership will still have created so much ill will among Blue Dog Democrats, that it might serve to create serious divisions within the caucus for the long term.

And if it fails, the Blue Dogs will be more powerful than ever, with the leadership being completely supplicated to them. Think that won’t allow the Blue Dogs to influence policy down the line?

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