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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blue Dogs in the Spotlight

When this health care debate is over, we are going to know if our Congress is Democratic or Conservative. The irony of the Democrats' majorities is that ideologically they have no majorities. The Blue Dog Democrats are often more Conservative than many Republicans. They have to be because their districts vote in a manner that would never accept anything but a conservative voting record. Many of the Blue Dogs got into office in 2006. They were recruited by the liberal, now Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel in one of the shrewdest political move in history. The Blue Dogs attacked most of their Republican opponents for losing their fiscal conservatism. It worked because in 2006 the Republicans had spent their way into six years of oblivion. As such, if they now turn around and sign onto several big spending programs, they will themselves be attacked for a liberal spending plans by other Republicans running as a true fiscal conservative.

The Blue Dogs caved on the stimulus mostly because the President was overwhelmingly popular and he put the fear of God into enough of them that they signed on. Health care won't work quite that way. Already, conservatives in the media are skeptical that the Blue Dogs will stand up to the President. Here's how Michelle Malkin sees it.

"Centrist” Democrats in the House say they oppose the government health care takeover plans of their leaders and their president.

They’re barking loudly, demanding major amendments to protect small businesses and taxpayers.

But do the Blue Dogs have any bite? Or will they be bought off like many of them were on cap-and-trade and Porkulus One?

Gateway Pundit has similar skepticism.

There are no Blue Dog democrats.There are democrats who occasionally vote with the GOP out of fear of losing their seat in Congress but there are NO Blue Dog democrats. If push comes to shove so-called Blue Dogs always vote with the

Just words.Yesterday, Representative Dan Boren (D-OK) admitted this week that Barack Obama is becoming a political liability. Representative Boren comes from the reddest state in America, Oklahoma. Not one single county in Oklahoma went for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Obama got 34 percent of the vote statewide.Rep. Boren talks a good game.But, Rep. voted with Obama 81% of the time. He even voted for the Stimulus boondoggle.

Here are the stakes for the Blue Dog Democrats. I have seen several all over cable news and each one has emphatically said that the bill in its current form is NOT one they would vote for. The Blue Dogs believe, as I do, that the problem is that system has far too much waste. They see a system that rewards waste, abuse, and corruption, and they see savings in reforming the system. That's what all of them have said in unison.

The president's plan focuses in universal health care coverage and a public option. It does NOTHING to remove the waste and inefficiency in the system. Make no mistake, the Blue Dogs are committed to health care reform. They want to work with the President. They will continue to negotiate with him. They will not, however, sign on to anything that is similar to what is currently being debated. If they did, they would lose all credibility because each of them are all over television proclaiming that the current plan is nothing like what they want. If they did, they would lose the next election.

I have called the Blue Dogs the Congressional rainmakers. I doubt very much that they aren't acutely aware of this now in the health care debate. I believe they are all committed to health care reform. I believe they are committed they are not committed to anything near the sort of health care reform currently in the House. To see what the Blue Dogs want you need to look at what Centrist Democrat Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has come up with Robert Bennet, Republican of Utah.

Under the Healthy Americans Act, health coverage would be portable. Individuals could keep the coverage they have as they move from job to job. Insurance would also no longer be tied to employment. If an individual is laid off, leaves their job voluntarily, or develops a serious illness, he or she would continue to be covered.

All employers, along with individuals and the government, will share the responsibility of financing health care. During a two-year transition period, employers who provide employee health benefits would be required to convert their workers' health care premiums into higher wages. Employers who don't currently offer health benefits would have to make phased-in

"Employer Shared Responsibility Payments," which would be used to provide financial assistance to individuals and families of modest income. After two years, all employers would make "Employer Shared Responsibility Payments." These payments would reflect the relative ability of small and large employers and low- and high-wage industries to make such payments, and would have no direct impact ON the coverage that is available to their employees.

Employees, in turn, would be required to purchase private health coverage with their higher wages. To ensure that it's affordable, the plan would fully subsidize the premiums for those who live below the poverty line. Those people between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line would also receive subsidies on a sliding scale to help pay their premiums.

Individuals would choose from a variety of private plans offered in their state. State-based Health Help Agencies (HHAs) would guide individuals through the enrollment process. These agencies would also provide consumers with unbiased information about competing private health plans and determine premium reductions that will ensure every American can afford their health plan. HHAs would ultimately lower administrative costs by coordinating payments from employers, individuals and the government.

This is a plan, correctly in my opinion, that focuses on moving the country away from employer funded health insurace and moves us toward health insurance that individuals get on their own. The Blue Dogs are NOT against a mandate that everyone be covered. They are NOT against charging those that don't get coverage. Yet, that's not their most important agenda. The Blue Dogs see the health care system as very inefficient. Their main concern is fixing these inefficiencies. That's the sort of thing that the Wyden bill does. It's NOT what the current bill in the House does. I would be stunned if they went along with anything near what is being debated now. I firmly believe the Blue Dogs will act as rainmakers and either force the sort of reforms they are looking for or kill the bill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even if the Blue Dogs don't realize their status, best believe the Progressive Caucus does. Their supporters are already ignoring the Republicans entirely, realizing that only by defeating the Blue Dogs can they accomplish their goals.