News & Politics

Stay Tuned For Blue Dog Hissy Fits This Week (And What Else is in Store on Healthcare)

A roundup of what too look for in the ongoing battle over healthcare reform on Capitol Hill.

With the House over one hurdle -- all three committees reporting legislation out, with Energy and Commerce bringing up the rear -- the week ahead will be a little less frenetic than the one that just passed. You could call it the week of the Blue Dogs.

By doing what they do best, throwing hissy fits to tie the entire Democratic caucus and leadership up in knots. Whether they do this out of real principle, because they like to exercise their clout, or because the longer they delay the process, the more money they rake in from industry -- and they rake in plenty -- that's their current role.

For all their talk of "fiscal responsibility," their efforts to weaken the public option in the E&C version of the bill "could actually increase the cost of the bill anywhere between $60 billion and $100 billion, wiping out all or most of the ostensible savings." The good news is that the Blue Dogs don't have the proportionate influence in the full House as they had on E&C, and that the CPC ia working hard at flexing their own muscle, and their numbers.

But there are still hurdles, not the least of which is the PR and lobbying firm organized harassment strategy they'll face in townmeetings back home this month:

This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama’s reforms.

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress....

Hopefully they'll be as prepared for that as leadership has tried to make them with all the district-specific talking points they'll need. Meanwhile, the three committee chairs will work together to iron out differences from the three committee bills. That effort should include reconsidering the timeline for implementation of the good parts of the bill -- like the public option -- and the ending of things like exclusion based on pre-existing conditions ending before 2013. The CPC and other liberal caucuses are going to have their work cut out for them fighting to change that timeline.

Then there's the Senate, which remains in session this week. Gawd only knows what the week will bring, but it's highly unlikely to be a bill out of Finance, given all the missed deadlines thus far. Nonetheless, here's the latest promise from Baucus, well, as of Friday, anyway:

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, has told colleagues he will press ahead with major health care legislation on Sept. 15 even if he does not have a bipartisan deal, Democrats said.

Given the nasty turn from Enzi and Grassley, and now the guy who dropped out of Baucus's negotiation group, Orrin Hatch, that's probably inevitable. If Baucus is actually capable of learning from experience. It's not as though his Republican buddies have made any bones whatsoever about making real reform a priority. They couldn't be more clear in their intent to kill it. It's official RNC policy, for chrissakes.

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