Blue Dogs deciding if they’ll kill real health care reform (even if it benefits their constituents)

When will progressives in the House have the power of the Blue Dogs?Jane Hamsher has been hammering this point for weeks over at FireDogLake. She’s right. If progressive House members stuck together, they’d be calling the shots right now. Instead, progressives cede power to the conservative members of the Democratic caucus.

Seven of the Blue Dogs are determining the future of health care reform:

During a crowded, hot meeting on Tuesday morning, the entire Blue Dog Coalition got a chance to review the conceptual healthcare compromise offered Monday night by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), but the only agreement reached was to let the seven Blue Dogs on Waxman’s committee decide the proposal’s fate.

“We’re not there yet,” Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), a Blue Dog co-chairman and member of the Energy and Commerce panel, said upon leaving the meeting. “We’ve had a good discussion with the Blue Dogs here this morning, and we’ll take it from there.”

Hill then retreated to his personal office along with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Zack Space (D-Ohio) and John Barrow (D-Ga.), three of the seven Blue Dogs who hold the keys to unlocking the healthcare bill from the Energy and Commerce Committee. That group was gathering to consider whether to accept Waxman’s proposal or to make a counter-offer and keep the negotiations going.

“The seven of us have to meet to decide exactly how we believe we should proceed,” Ross said. “I think we’ll have something to say about that later in the day.”

The seven of them get to decide. That’s what is has come to.

What makes this so scary is that the Blue Dogs are hypocrites. Yesterday, Paul Krugman told us the Blue Dogs “aren’t making sense.” In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, Jacob Hacker also deconstructs the positions of the Blue Dogs and finds their arguments inconsistent:

The main worry expressed by the Blue Dogs is that the Congressional Budget Office has predicted that leading bills on Capitol Hill won’t bring down medical inflation. The irony is that the Blue Dogs’ argument — that a new public insurance plan designed to compete with private insurers should be smaller and less powerful, and that Medicare and this new plan should pay more generous rates to rural providers — would make reform more expensive, not less. The further irony is that the federal premium assistance that the Blue Dogs worry is too costly is the reform that would make health-care affordable for a large share of their constituents.

The Blue Dogs are right to hold Obama and Democratic leaders to their commitment to real cost control. But they are wrong to see this goal as conflicting with a new national public health insurance plan for Americans younger than 65. In fact, such a plan, empowered to work with Medicare, is Congress’s single most powerful lever for reforming the way care is paid for and delivered. With appropriate authority, it can encourage private plans to develop innovations in payment and care coordination that could spread through the private sector, as have past public-sector innovations.

The Blue Dogs are hypocrites. They’re pushing policies that hurt their own constituents. And, right now, they’re holding the rest of us hostage.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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