Pelosi’s behind-the-scenes moves

PELOSI’S BEHIND-THE-SCENES MOVES…. There’s a sizable portion of the House Democratic caucus that won’t support reform if they consider it too liberal. There’s another contingent, which is at least as big, that won’t support reform if they consider it insufficiently liberal.

The Hill reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reaching a conclusion as to how best to proceed.

Speaker Pelosi is backing away from a deal she cut with centrists to advance health reform, said a source familiar with talks.

Pelosi’s decision to move away from the agreement that was made with a group of Blue Dogs to get the bill out of committee would steer the healthcare legislation back to the left as she prepares for a floor vote…. But a Pelosi aide said nothing is final, and the proposal to revert to the more left-leaning version of the language would be vetted before the entire Democratic Caucus.

It doesn’t seem quite right to say that Pelosi is “moving away” from the leadership’s deal with Blue Dogs. In July, in order to get a reform bill out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the leadership negotiated with Rep. Mike Ross (D) of Arkansas, the Blue Dog caucus’ point-man on health care, and other center-right Dems. They agreed to a fairly progressive bill, which included a public option, and Ross and other Blue Dogs voted to send the measure to the floor.

Two months later, Ross returned from the August recess, scrapped the agreement, and said he would not vote for a reform bill with a public option — despite the fact that he already had at the committee level, and had endorsed a public option just two weeks prior.

In other words, Pelosi didn’t “move away” from the agreement, Ross did. Now, the Speaker is left to pursue a different course, because Ross hasn’t left her with much of a choice.

In some circles, House passage of reform is a foregone conclusion, but it’s worth remembering that Pelosi’s task is far from easy. To pass reform with no Republican votes, the Democratic caucus can afford to lose no more than 38 votes. There are more than 38 Blue Dogs looking for a more conservative bill, and there are more than 38 progressives looking for a more liberal bill.

Brian Beutler reported this morning, “[B]ehind the scenes and in public, Pelosi continues to make the case that health care reform should include a public option, and that the public option should be more robust. And according to Roll Call, she’d like the bill the House votes on to be completed and ready for a CBO score by the end of this week, ahead, she hopes, of a mid-October vote. Pelosi has a tough needle to thread particularly given the Senate’s aversion to endorsing a public option. And though her public adamancy has softened, she’s clearly working the inside game.”