Democrats looking for scapegoats
With their health care plans in a holding pattern — and no George W. Bush to kick around anymore — Democrats are casting about for somebody to blame.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says that Republicans have “perfected ‘just say no.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said insurance companies are chalking up “immoral profits.”
But even if they won’t acknowledge it publicly, most Democrats in Congress know the truth: It’s their own colleagues who are slowing down progress in both the House and the Senate.
Back in 2005, Democrats made a concerted push to recruit conservative candidates to help them win in Republican-leaning districts. The strategy worked, propelling the party to power in 2006 and giving it a larger majority in 2008.
But now Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are grappling with the downside: To get health care reform through Congress, they’re going to have to get it past these new, more conservative members of their party — specifically, the seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee who have delayed consideration of the bill.
The frustration bubbled over last Friday after negotiations broke down between the Blue Dogs and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Afterward, the chairman complained, “We’re not going to let them empower Republicans to control the committee.”
During a meeting of committee Democrats shortly afterward, New York Rep. Eliot Engel and others gave the two Blue Dogs in attendance — Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross and Ohio Rep. Zack Space — a piece of their minds, those in attendance said afterward.
And on Monday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman raised the possibility that some Blue Dogs are dragging their heels because they want Obama to fail — both on health care and at the polls in 2012.
[They aren't doing anything to the president. They're fighting to save their political backsides because they know if they go for this, their political careers are most likely finished. Krugman, no offense, is a moron.]“Perhaps their bottom line is that they don’t want a bill,” said Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a leading progressive. “Some of us feel this has become a constantly moving target.”
“I’ve listened carefully to what they want, and I have yet to hear how money will be saved,” she added.
Pelosi won’t go that far, but she, too, knows where the holdup is. Asked Monday about the prospects for a vote on a bill this week, the speaker said, “We’re on schedule to do it now or do it whenever. ... A lot depends on when the Energy and Commerce Committee finishes its work.”
But the fact remains that House Democrats owe their majority to lawmakers such as Space and John Barrow of Georgia or Baron Hill of Indiana — two fellow Blue Dogs on Energy and Commerce — so they push these members at some peril to the party.
“These guys are the majority makers,” said Michigan Rep. John Dingell, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who has attended key negotiating sessions with the Blue Dogs. “These guys gotta fight to stay. ... They can warn us about pitfalls that we, in our arrogance, may not see. Their concerns are legitimate.”
Dingell seems to be the only one with a brain in the House to recognize the Blue Dogs do have legitimate issues with this legislation. The Blue Dogs have seen the CBO reports, and they're not convinced this bill will be "deficit-neutral" as Barry said it would be in his presser last week. They're seeing the deficits climb to heights they never envisioned, and they're already on the hook -- most of them -- for voting in favor of the Pork-A-Palooza back in February and the omnibus pork bill in March.
They have seen what this administration is all about, and they know if they go along with it without a fight, they're finished as politicians on the national stage.
The Blue Dogs are the fiscally-responsible ones in their own party, and Dingell is further correct about them being the majority-makers. They are. If the Democrats can't get them to play ball, they'll side with the Republicans, and health care reform will die in the House. This is one bill that Pelosi knows she needs them on board because the Republicans will be lock-step against this. Yes, there's rumors that the Senate is working on a compromise with the moderate Republicans there, but they still haven't addressed the deficit issues. As long as the outrageous deficits exist, the Blue Dogs should remain 100% against this.