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Obamacare in the House: Do the Blue Dogs have any bite?

By Michelle Malkin  •  July 16, 2009 05:23 AM

“Centrist” Democrats in the House say they oppose the government health care takeover plans of their leaders and their president.

They’re barking loudly, demanding major amendments to protect small businesses and taxpayers.

But do the Blue Dogs have any bite? Or will they be bought off like many of them were on cap-and-trade and Porkulus One?

The Hill reports:

Centrist Democrats are threatening to oppose their party’s healthcare legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accepts changes that make the bill more to their liking.

Seven Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have banded together to draft amendments that they’ll co-sponsor in the committee markup, which starts Thursday. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dogs’ point man on healthcare, says if those changes aren’t accepted, they’ll vote down the bill.

“We cannot support the current bill,” Ross said. “Last time I checked, it took seven Democrats to stop a bill in Energy and Commerce.”

Ross knows of three additional Democrats on the committee who won’t support the bill in its current form, creating a base of 10 Democratic opponents. The committee has 59 members: 23 Republicans and 36 Democrats.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he’s aware of the centrists’ concerns and is prepared to make changes even before the committee starts voting.

“Can a bunch of members bring a bill down? Sure,” Waxman said. “What we need to do is work together to pass a bill.”

Translation: Twist arms, cut deals, and buy off.

Looks like some of the Blue Dogs are growing tired of getting kicked around, not being listened to, and having massive legislation crammed down their throats. Sounds like your average Tea Party activist!

Blue Dogs think the bill fails to do enough to reduce healthcare costs, jeopardizes jobs with a fee on employers that don’t provide health insurance, and would base a government-run healthcare plan on a Medicare payment system that already penalizes their rural districts.

One Blue Dog, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), told a home-state paper that he will vote against the plan in the Ways and Means Committee markup unless that Medicare payment system is changed.

Blue Dogs had aired their complaints last week in a letter to Pelosi that caused her to delay the rollout of the bill until Tuesday. But when the bill was introduced, they felt Pelosi and the committee chairmen who wrote the legislation hadn’t taken their concerns into account.

That led to a tense session between Pelosi and Blue Dogs at the group’s regular Tuesday meeting hours after the rollout.

“The meeting did not go well. She just kept saying it was a good bill,” said one Blue Dog.

“There is a growing perception among many of us that our leadership meets with us but doesn’t listen to us,” said another Blue Dog.

Your calls to members of Congress and your hometown protests can and have made a difference. Look:

Pelosi cut deal after deal with individual lawmakers to squeak the bill out of committee and to the floor. Then lawmakers flew home and had to battle criticism from voters at the same time Republicans were saying Democrats passed an “energy tax.”

“They went home and got beat up about energy,” said a senior aide to a Blue Dog lawmaker. “Now you’re going to jam healthcare down their throat and send them home for a month?”

Buck up the Blue Dogs with a phone call – Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121:

Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.)
Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.)
Baron Hill (D-Ind.)
Jim Matheson (D-Utah)
Charlie Melancon (D-La.)
Mike Ross (D-Ark.)
Zack Space (D-Ohio)

Here’s a rundown of the crammed legislative schedule over the next week:

*Votes planned Thursday by the Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees;

*Energy and Commerce also considering the health care bill on Thursday;

*On the Senate site, Obama wants legislation from the Senate Finance Committee by the end of the week.

Via AP: “Finance Committee members are considering a new proposal from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., that would raise $100 billion over 10 years by imposing new fees on health insurance companies.”

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