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The Blue Dog Shuffle Comes to Health Care

Blue Dogs Talk Conservative, But Will Fold in the End

As I mentioned a few days ago, I find it entertaining when liberals and the mainstream media question who leads the Republican party. The real question is who leads the Democrats. Is it the old line Pelosi/Reid/Rangel/Obama/Waxman liberals, or is it the moderates who worry that the voters will punish them for following a standard liberal agenda. On health care, we see yet again that the Democratic party is split between liberal safe-seaters who have nothing to fear in 2010, and moderates who will be turned out if they vote the liberal line. And the Blue Dogs at least, are acting as if they want to survive:

Members of the centrist GOP “Tuesday Group,” the New Democrat Coalition and the 52-member Blue Dog Coalition have been discussing both the policies and politics of moving their middle-of-the-road ideas in a body of Congress usually dominated by liberal or conservative ideology.

Those centrist factions are wary of the proposals their respective leaders will introduce this month. Blue Dogs are leery of the so-called public option in the healthcare reform bill that is expected to hit the House floor this summer. Meanwhile, GOP centrists opted to release their own healthcare plan a day before House GOP leaders are scheduled to unveil their reform package.

Noting that some members could be retaliated against by their leaders, some lawmakers declined to mention to whom they were talking. Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) said that he wouldn’t “throw [Blue Dogs] under the bus” by revealing the identities of his Democratic colleagues…

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.), Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (Calif.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (N.Y.) are taking the lead on writing the bill, which is expected to be rolled out on Friday.

“[Miller, Waxman and Rangel] don’t care about us … They need Blue Dogs. … Blue Dogs have a lot of leverage at this point,” Tiberi said.

However, some Blue Dogs have wavered when pressed by their Democratic leaders on other high-profile issues, including pay-as-you-go budgetary rules.

bluedogsI tend not to take this kabuki too seriously. History shows pretty clearly that the Blue Dogs will grumble and grouse, then extract some meaningless concession, before knuckling under to their liberal leaders. Jane Hamhser seems to agree: she suggests that the Blue Dogs only need to hear their masters’ voice:

Every single Blue Dog* voted for the supplemental, despite the fact that they had huge concerns about the enormous price tag, and it went totally against their “fiscal responsibility” mantra. Jim Cooper is in trouble in his own largely African-America district because Nashville Metro General Hospital is in danger of shutting down, and Cooper doesn’t believe in earmarks. He voted against the supplemental the first time, and even he switched at Obama’s request, despite the fact that the IMF funding, Clunkers, and flu preparedness had been added to the bill by the time it came to a vote.

This morning we learn that the Blue Dogs are meeting with “moderate” Republicans and the New Democrats to try and derail a public plan.

But now we know what it looks like when the administration truly brings pressure to bear on an issue they care about. If Obama does the same on healthcare, there can be little doubt that the Blue Dogs will respond likewise. . . and we will have a public plan.

This is at least one instance where I completely agree with Hamsher. If Pelosi, Reid, Obama, et al tell them to, the Blue Dogs will cough up however many votes are needed to create a government-run health care plan. The ‘Blue Dog’ label is nothing but a marketing gimmick to try to win seats in conservative districts.

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