The Blue Dogs flunk obedience school
Fiscally conservative Democrats, not Republicans, are Obama's real obstacle on the road to healthcare reform
By Mike Madden
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
July 22, 2009 | WASHINGTON -- The moment had finally come, Tuesday afternoon, for President Obama to follow through on a pledge that he'd taken some heat for making during last year's campaign: He would meet, and negotiate on key issues, with enemies, no matter how vile they might seem to be. Which is how a group of conservative Blue Dog Democrats from the House found themselves invited into the Oval Office to chat about healthcare policy for an hour.
As the White House tries to stir itself into action to keep Obama's chief domestic policy priority from going off the rails, the administration is finding that its biggest problem isn't Republicans. Sure, the GOP opposes the healthcare reform plans moving through Congress, but what else is new? The GOP has opposed everything Obama's tried to do in his first six months in office. The complaints the White House is trying to accommodate now are coming from conservative and moderate Democrats.
In the House, a group of Blue Dogs have basically held legislation hostage, leveraging their numbers on the one committee in that chamber that has yet to pass a bill, the Energy and Commerce panel. In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and a handful of moderate Democrats are engaged in painstaking, secretive talks with moderate Republicans in an effort to draft a proposal that might win bipartisan support. None of the senators involved in the talks would discuss them with reporters this afternoon, but they insisted they were doing the right thing. "What we're doing in this group is working very methodically," said Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who's pushing for "co-ops" instead of a government-run public health insurance option in the reform. "We're not impatient, we're trying to get this job done in the right way so it can stand review and stand scrutiny."http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/07/22/healthcare?source=newsletter
© Janet Crain
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