Blue Dogs seem unfazed by August

BLUE DOGS SEEM UNFAZED BY AUGUST…. Would conservative Blue Dog Democrats return from the recess rattled and even more reluctant to pass health care reform? As it turns out, not really. The NYT reports that several of these center-right Dems are sounding largely the same notes as they were in July.

Even after the tough town-hall-style meetings, unrelenting Republican assaults and a steady stream of questions from anxious voters, interviews with more than a dozen Blue Dogs and their top aides indicate that many of the lawmakers still believe approval of some form of health care plan is achievable and far preferable to not acting at all.

“I can’t tell you how comprehensive it will be, but I do believe something will get passed,” said Representative Michael Arcuri, a second-term Blue Dog Democrat from New York.

The political temperature of the Blue Dogs — and their ideological counterparts in the Senate — after the five-week recess is crucial. As representatives of some of the nation’s most conservative territory represented by Democrats, they potentially have the most to lose if a Democratic bill spurs a backlash.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) said it’s possible that a majority of the Blue Dog caucus could still end up voting for a reform bill that represented a consensus Democratic view. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said, “I think now more than ever we must get strong in our resolve to pass health care insurance reform legislation.” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), another Blue Dog, said he hasn’t seen any evidence that Democratic lawmakers have shifted from a month ago — Dems who weren’t inclined to vote for it before still aren’t; Dems who want to support a bill stil do.

One Blue Dog, Rep. Representative Leonard Boswell of Iowa, even supports a public option. “I’ve heard too many stories of Iowans who can’t afford health insurance, or can’t get coverage for the care they need. I support a public option so that we can bring down the costs of premiums and curb the inflation of health care costs.”

The only real change has happened on the other side of the aisle — Republicans are less open to the possibility of supporting anything. The NYT piece said GOP lawmakers are “essentially out of the health care picture for now.”

As for what’s next, most of the Blue Dogs who at least seem to support some kind of reform expect some concessions. It was unclear what it would take, and the likelihood of deep party divisions remain real.

But at this point, I’m a little relieved more Blue Dogs aren’t returning to DC saying, “Forget it; I’m out.” That they aren’t is probably a good sign.