Thursday, July 30, 2009

Progressives Not Happy

If it seems like the American people are pissed about the latest developments in the ongoing saga that is health care reform, they're not the only ones; progressives in the House and Senate are also getting a bit miffed.

And why wouldn't they be? The Senate Finance Committee is already rumored to be doing away with employer mandates and a public option, and as of Wednesday there were also reports that the committee would do away with SCHIP -- which would leave roughly 11 million children without coverage.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a compromise on Wednesday -- agreed upon by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) -- that would weaken the public option. The original public option in the bill would've structured payment rates for doctors and health care providers using a rate modified from the one used in Medicare. The compromised version, though, would allow doctors and health care providers to negoiate rates themselves.

Blue Dog Democrats claimed they trimmed $100 billion from the bill -- and The Washington Post played along -- but several sources claimed the new public option would do no such thing. In fact, sources such as Politico are saying the new public option would raise the bill's price tag anywhere from $60 billion to $100 billion.


So, back to the peeved progressives. The Hill reported on Thursday that progressive Senators have threatened to take away Max Baucus' gavel. Baucus (D-Mont.) is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and some progressives want him removed from that position because of his efforts to compromise with committee Republicans, which have led to a watered-down (and ultimately pointless) bill.

Which is fine and dandy, but if we're gonna strip Baucus of his power, we might want to do the same to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). He hasn't been much help to the progressive cause, either.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) ripped into the Senate Finance Committee's proposals Wednesday night on MSNBC's Countdown, claiming the bill coming out of the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee was far better.

Moods haven't been much better in the House.

Lynn Woosley (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said, "We do not support this," before ultimately adding, "We might have to come back and start over."

I'm not sure if that's the best way to go, unless in the process of starting over, progressive put single-payer back on the negotiating table. As it is, the debate will be complicated by the August recess, with Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats content to slow down the process ... if they slow it down enough, they will effectively kill the effort.

According to Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the deal is unacceptable and several progressive members of the House have signed a pledge not to support a bill that does not contain a strong public option. Considering 72 percent of the American people want a public option, that's good to know.

Republicans aren't the problem here -- especially since their proposed bill has little chance of getting anywhere. The issue here is the Blue Dog Democrats, the conservative members of the party who, for whatever reason, oppose the public option. Many have cited fiscal conservatism, though it's clear many of the Blue Dogs are receiving healthy financial contributions from the health insurance industry.

Baucus is among the worst offenders, and Oklahoma Blue Dog Dan Boren even admitted on Wednesday morning that he is against the public option because of his concern for the private insurers located in his state.

Well, at least he's honest ...

Republicans are banking that failed health care reform could lead to more seats for the party in Congress following the 2010 elections. But conventional wisdom states that Blue Dog Democrats might be more to blame, given their resistance to follow party lines. The American people have given the Democrats control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, and those fighting hardest for health care will know which Democrats voted for true reform and which voted against it.

This is just a guess, but the Democratic National Committee might spend time in the coming months finding more progressive candidates to run against the Blue Dogs in party primaries, which would hopefully lead to larger progressive population in Congress. That strategy does carry risk, though; a lot of Blue Dogs hail from purple states or states that traditionally go Republican.

Those constiuencies might not be comfortable with a truly progressive candidate.

Still, in terms of the health care debate, more progressive Congressmen and women are needed. We know the right-wingers won't do anything, aside from screaming about socialism, racism and birth certificates ... and we know the Blue Dogs aren't really pulling their own weight.

I don't know much, but what I do know? August will be a crucial month in this debate.

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