Monday, June 08, 2009

Blue Dogs Backsliding On Health Care

by Ryan Grim at Huffington Post

I'll be starting phone calls in the morning... This really pisses me off.

Conservative House Democrats agreed to a set of health care principles late last week that angered advocates of a overhaul of the health care system.

The Blue Dog Coalition issued a statement that said it would only support the public health care option as a fallback measure that would be triggered sometime down the road if private insurers don't meet a particular set of goals.

The backsliding took advocates of reform by surprise because 20 members of the coalition had previously signed a pledge expressing their support for a public option without a trigger. The statement was written and organized by the reform coalition Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which strongly opposes a trigger and sees it as an industry plot to strangle a public option in the crib.

Blue Dogs, by their charter, need two-thirds of their 51-member caucus to approve a position before it can be officially adopted. With 20 Blue Dogs backing a public option, they would be short several votes if everyone stuck to their pledge in the closed-door meeting.

A senior Blue Dog staffer, however, said that when the coalition first met to discuss the set of principles, they decided to stake out a negotiating position rather than draw a firm line.

"The sense in the room when these principles were drafted was that the coalition was shooting a bit past where they want to end up," said a top Blue Dog aide. "The final product is obviously going to be delivered through a negotiation and an ultimate compromise meaning the principles listed are much more of a starting place for the negotiation than they are an intractable position."
Rep. Patrick Murphy (Penn.) still backs a public plan without a trigger, said his spokeswoman Kate Hansen. "Congressman Murphy stands with President Obama in supporting the inclusion of a public option without a trigger in healthcare reform legislation, and believes it would be a good way to introduce transparency, competition, and cost-control into the insurance market," she said.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (Calif.) said she is waiting to see what emerges from committee before taking a stand, though she didn't back off her HCAN pledge.
Beyond Sanchez and Murphy, the 18 other Blue Dogs to sign the HCAN statement include Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire (Penn.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), Joe Baca (Calif.), Marion Berry (Ark.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Chris Carney (Penn.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jane Harman, (Calif.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), Tim Holden (Penn.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Zack Space (Ohio), Mike Thompson (Calif.) and Charlie Wilson (Ohio).

Several of those members played an active role in the creation of the principles that go against the original pledge they signed for health care reform.

The 20 Blue Dogs have taken a combined $6,849,273 from various segments of the health care industry, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Read the principles here. [PDF]

Read it all and try not to throw up...

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