Leapfrogging the Blue Dogs?

LEAPFROGGING THE BLUE DOGS?…. A good health care bill has already passed the House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. The legislation hasn’t progressed to the floor yet because it has not yet passed the Energy and Commerce Committee*. And we’re still waiting on Energy and Commerce because it has seven conservative Blue Dog Dems who aren’t satisfied with the package.

Democratic leaders have spent a whole lot of time this week trying to respond to the Blue Dogs’ concerns, but the negotiations haven’t produced a resolution. This afternoon, there’s talk that the leadership may just skip the Energy and Commerce Committee altogether.

Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says there is “no alternative” but to have healthcare legislation bypass his Energy and Commerce Committee if Blue Dog Democrats don’t accept a deal worked out Friday.

Waxman is hoping the inclusion of a study on Medicare reimbursement rates in the healthcare overhaul will be enough to placate the centrist Democrats, who say the government program short-changes hospitals and physicians in their rural districts.

If that’s not, the seven Blue Dogs could join with the committee’s Republicans to “eviscerate” healthcare reform, and that’s something Waxman will not tolerate.

“I won’t allow them to hand over control of our committee to Republicans,” Waxman told reporters. “I don’t see what other alternative we have, because we’re not going to let them empower Republicans on the committee.”

It’s unclear at this point if this is a genuine threat, or a negotiating ploy. We should know more after the committee’s Democratic members meet privately in about an hour.

Keep in mind, though, that if the leadership “leapfrogs” the Energy and Commerce Committee because leaders can’t overcome Blue Dog opposition, it will, in the words of one Blue Dog member, “clearly ruffle some feathers.” And by that, he/she likely means that Blue Dog opposition on the House floor will be that much more galvanized. Whether that might be enough to defeat the bill remains unclear.

For what it’s worth, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) has scheduled a full-caucus meeting for today, during which party leaders will reportedly go through bill “section by section and answer every question members have.”

* corrected