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Friday, July 24, 2009

Democratic Leadership Vs. the Blue Dogs

I think most of us expected for Republicans to battle it out ideological in the aftermath of their stunning defeat in 2008. I'd be hard pressed to imagine that anyone would have thought that there would be a political civil war not six months into the new administration. Though, to be fair, Dick Morris predicted just such a problem when he analyzed the make up of the Democratic party.

The problem is that the Democratic party is a series of factions and those factions have competing agendas. The far left lead by Nancy Pelosi have totally different legislative goals than the moderate and conservative Blue Dogs. Then, there are the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses which also represent their own interests. Now, enter the very complicated nature of health care reform. Is anyone really surprised that Democrats are having problems coalescing around a bill?

If you allow the Blue Dogs to lead in crafting the bill, the Pelosi wing won't be on board, and vice versa. Right now, it's vice versa but Democrats were always going to have problems. It's one thing to have competing wings create chaos on crafting legislation. That can look ugly as it happens but it's also part of the problem.

What's happening now is a full civil war. The Blue Dogs are accusing the leadership of not negotiating in good faith. Meanwhile, the leadership is trying to strong arm the Blue Dogs into falling in line with a bill they hate. That all has now taken on more significance. First, Speaker Pelosi suggested that the health care bill would skip the energy and move directly to the floor. The blue dogs were holding up the bill in that committee and refusing to sign on. Now, Henry Waxman, head of this committee, has made the same threat.

A key House committee chairman on Friday threatened to roll over moderate Democrats who are holding up the health care reform bill and bring the package straight to the floor.

The statement underscored the deep divisions the health care reform debate is causing in the ranks of the Democratic Party.

Fiscally conservative Blue Dogs are holding up the bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee over cost concerns and other issues. But Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on Friday accused those Democrats of empowering Republicans.

"I won't allow them to turn over control of the committee to the Republicans," Waxman said, threatening to bypass the committee process.

This is the political version of eating your own. The only clear winners in this fight are the Republicans. The only clear losers in this fight are the Democrats. The only question is which of the Democrats will lose more. What is clear is that there is total chaos and disruption within the Democratic party.

It's really baffling that the leadership would ratchet up the pressure in this way on members of their own caucus. First, the Blue Dogs have indicated they would vote against this bill. Even if it bypasses committee, they still have enough votes to kill it. More than that, such heavy handed tactics against their own only create even more schisms within the party.

What's more stuning is that even if this stunt happened to get a bill through the House, it would still be months away from actually having binding legislation. The Senate is nowhere near moving forward. Even if both Waxman and Pelosi by passed the committee and strong armed enough members to pass the bill, the health care debate would only get started. As such, the leadership would look like bullies steam rolling their bill past its caucus that has serious problems with it. That's the perception they'd create while it's debated nonetheless for several more months.

Interview after interview would likely characterize this move as exactly the sort of cynical tactic that everyone hates. That would be the perception they'd create. Even the suggestion that leadership would by pass the committee smells of a leadership that is in full panic mode. It appears as though Democratic leaders have hit an impasse and they can't figure out how to move forward. Instead of making the necessary compromises needed to get enough votes to pass the bill, they want to circumvent the process in the desperate attempt that the stunt will get enough votes.


Anonymous said...

I finally got through to my Senators and Representatives to let them know that while I am a Democrat, pushing something of this magnitude through without allowing the public or anyone else for that matter to dissect the bill is unconscionable. First the Cap and Trade and now this and "this" is enough to make me one very, very angry voter.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, the Democrats believe the Blue Dogs request for more funds for rural doctors contradicts their desire for a more cost-effective bill.

From the Democrats perspective, this contradiction is designed to mask the Blue Dogs true intentions, which range from opposition to the proposed tax increase, to just plain wanting to kill the bill outright.

Pelosi clearly thinks she can get the 15 or so other Blue Dogs she needs to pass the bill on the floor. But seriously, I didn't think she had it in her to pull off something so Delay-esque.

As far as the Senate, I think you overestimate how hard it would be for the Democrats to pass it. After all, its a reconciliation bill and they only need 50 of their own members to vote yes. Not to mention the possibility of getting Collins or Snowe to back it. Getting them might be easier than getting some of the Democrats like Nelson, Baucus, and Conrad.

Anonymous said...

Loretta Sanchez is a Blue Dog Democrat who supports Pelosi's bill because of the public option. Its not hard to imagine there are other Blue Dogs like her out there.

mike volpe said...

Well that's one. The Democrats need 13 of them and that's assuming that no other Democrat votes against the bill. There are 20 freshman dems worried about tax hikes for the wealthy so I don't think that Loretta Sanchez should give any health care reformers too much heart.

mike volpe said...

I think I have some delusional liberals that still think that health care in its current form will still pass. Silly, silly. It won't. The problems that the Blue Dogs have are fundamental and they won't be fixed at the margins. The health care bill becomes less and less popular everyday.

If the Blue Dogs are hypocritical, that's news to me. If they are, so be it. You still aren't going to get too many of them to agree to health care in its current form. If you could, the bill would have already passed.

Health care reform could pass but it will look a lot different than it does now.