Rumblings about a Blue Dog betrayal

RUMBLINGS ABOUT A BLUE DOG BETRAYAL…. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) of Louisiana told a conservative talk-show host this morning that Blue Dogs Democrats have been quietly reaching out to conservative Republicans about a GOP-friendly health care reform plan.

“I’m having Democrats come to me, to speak to me as to what House Republicans are putting up,” Cassidy told a conservative news radio program. “And when I mention our patient-centered plan…they want to have more conversations regarding that.”

Cassidy was referencing the bill H.R. 3400, introduced by some House GOP lawmakers as an alternative to the bill favored by most Democrats.

“Some of my Democratic colleagues are approaching me now, saying we are not going to vote for H.R. 3200, can we talk about some of our ideas,” Cassidy explained. “I’m very encouraged by this.”

This isn’t the first time this has come up, but it’s gone almost entirely overlooked, in part because it seems hard to believe.

Last week, The Hill had a report, citing “GOP sources,” claiming that Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the leading Blue Dog on health care policy, has been “keeping a back channel open” to Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) about a possible reform deal. The sources said Ross and Boustany have “secretively … been in talks for weeks.”

And as far back as July, Boustany claimed that Blue Dogs and conservative Republicans were having “conversations” about a center-right compromise that would effectively reject everything Democrats had proposed.

At this point, the only people talking about this publicly seem to be conservative Republicans. Whether there’s anything to this is entirely unclear. Maybe this has to do with a negotiating ploy. It might even be little more than a psych-out.

But if Cassidy’s comments this morning were accurate, Blue Dogs could be part of a rather massive betrayal. If the conservative Democrats decide, en masse, that they’ll support a conservative Republican approach to reform — premised on the notion that American families already have too much insurance — but not a Democratic package, the consequences would be devastating.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.