Health Care Reform Update: Deal With The Blue Dogs, Rage On The Liberal Side

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on July 30, 2009

I’ll let David Espo explain the title of this post:

After weeks of turmoil, House Democrats reached a shaky peace with the party’s rebellious rank-and-file conservatives Wednesday and cleared the way for a vote in September on sweeping health care legislation.

Bipartisan Senate negotiators reported progress, too, on a bill to extend coverage to 95 percent of all Americans without raising federal deficits. “We’re on the edge, we’re almost there,” said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican involved in the secretive Senate talks.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, said preliminary estimates from congressional budget experts showed the cost of the emerging Senate plan was below $900 billion and would result in an increase in employer-sponsored insurance — conclusions that may reassure critics who fear a bloated bill that prompts businesses to abandon the coverage they currently provide.

Across the Capitol, House Democratic leaders gave in to numerous demands from rank-and-file rebels, so-called Blue Dogs from the conservative wing of the party who had been blocking the bill’s passage in the last of three committees.

The House changes, which drew immediate opposition from liberals in the chamber, would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance, exempt additional businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and change the terms of a government insurance option.

[. . .]

As word of the agreement spread, liberals fired back. “We do not support this,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., head of the Progressive Caucus. “I think they have no idea how many people are against this. They can’t possibly be taking us seriously if they’re going to bring this forward.”

Woolsey is correct. Neither the White House, nor the Blue Dog Democrats, nor anyone in the Congressional Democratic leadership even remotely associated with trying to bring this policy birth to the world’s light. (Pray the ghost of Shakespeare will forgive that last paraphrase.) And that should make for a nasty battle between the liberals, on one hand, and the Blue Dogs and their allies on the other.

Eventually, the White House will have to choose sides in this battle. If it chooses the liberals, it may sink any chance for health care reform this year–and perhaps, by extension, health care reform at all during Barack Obama’s first term. If it chooses the Blue Dogs and their leadership allies, it will enrage its base.

Again, this is where Republicans allow Democrats to destroy themselves.

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