What's Behind the Liberal Revolt on Health Care?
There's been some liberal discontent over the deal struck between Henry Waxman and the Blue Dogs yesterday. In particular, House progressives are angry that the public plan, which previously could use Medicare payment rates (with some exceptions) in its first three years of operation, now has to negotiate its own payment rates from the outset. Substantively, this isn't a particularly big deal. But then, it's not really about this.
House liberals are afraid of the dynamic in which good bills face Blue Dog opposition in the final mile and are aggressively watered down. Senate liberals are afraid of the same. And throwing this final compromise with the Blue Dogs into doubt is a show of strength. After all, House liberals feel they've already compromised plenty: Coming down from single-payer is a compromise. Cordoning the public plan off on the Health Insurance Exchange is a compromise. The whole bill is one big compromise, and every subsequent iteration is a compromise stacked atop a compromise placed upon a compromise. At some point, the compromises have to stop. Or, better yet, they have to go in the other direction.
In recent years, the Blue Dogs have developed a reputation for being willing to scuttle major pieces of legislation if their demands aren't met. Their approach to the congressional process is to render it a hostage situation. This has made it relatively easy for congressional leadership to go to liberals and regretfully ask for one more concession, lest those cursed centrists kill the whole bill. What liberals want, however, is for House leadership to be able to go to the Blue Dogs -- the very politicians who will be most vulnerable if health-care reform fails and the country turns against the Democrats -- and regretfully say that those nutball liberals will kill the bill unless they get their way on the public plan.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.
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