Friday, July 17, 2009

Sweet payback for Nancy Pelosi

It turns out that many House Democrats, particularly the Blue Dogs, don't like having to vote for poorly crafted bills in a big rush and then having to go defend their votes to their constituents. They've heard a boatload from their voters and now they're telling Nancy Pelosi that she has to slow things down and stop cramming huge, expensive bills through the House if she wants their votes. Apparently, their constituents didn't like the cap and trade bill and these Blue Dogs are balking about falling in line for health care.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is paying a price on healthcare reform for the arm-twisting she did on the climate change bill last month.

Democratic House members were rankled by how the climate bill passed — and stunned by the criticism they got at home.

Those memories are fueling a revolt among conservative Blue Dogs and a drive among freshman lawmakers to drop plans for a surtax on the wealthy in healthcare reform.

An aide to one conservative Democratic lawmaker said the climate bill was “really rammed down our throats.”

And there’s a general sense of unease among others members of the caucus.

“I think the well’s a bit poisoned,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). “A lot of people went home and got beaten up on climate. Now they want to make sure they understand it before they vote on it. People still want to do it. It’s just going to be a little bit harder.”

Many centrist Democrats pushed Pelosi and the Democratic leadership to put off the climate change debate and pass a healthcare overhaul first, giving members more time to work through the issues and get comfortable with the complex issue.

And what still rubs many members raw is that if the climate bill ever comes back from the Senate, it’s likely to be significantly weaker. So they voted for tough and expensive regulations that will likely never become law.
It seems that Madame Speaker made a tactical error by allowing cap and trade to come up first before the health care proposal. It was always doubtful whether such a stringent bill would ever get through the Senate where a lot of senators are skittish about voting for a bill that will raise energy prices for everyone. But she went her merry way and rammed it through, twisting arms to get the votes she needed. And now the Senate has put off consideration of cap and trade until at least September. So these worried House Democrats have the worst of both worlds. They cast a tough vote that is already coming back to haunt them, the Democrats won't get what they wanted on the bill, and they're determined not to make the same mistake again on health care. But there are already signs that Pelosi didn't learn that lesson and is still determined to go with the more liberal bill without taking into consideration the concerns of the Blue Dogs. And they're not happy about being sidelined once again.
The fresh memory of the difficult vote has hit the Democrats’ plan to pass a healthcare bill before August like a Mack truck.

“People walked the plank and didn’t get protected,” said a senior Democratic aide. “Now they want them to walk the plank again.”

Despite a massive listening campaign organized by Pelosi and other leaders, the objections to the healthcare bill are coming from diverse parts of the caucus.

Freshmen are circulating a letter calling for the surtax to be eliminated because they believe it will unfairly hit small businesses.

“Republicans called the last one a tax increase and it wasn’t. But this one really is,” said an aide to one Democratic freshman lawmaker.

Blue Dogs have a host of complaints, starting with irritation that the bill doesn’t wring enough cost savings out of the healthcare system and leaves Medicare reimbursement unfairly low in their rural districts. They launched a formal protest last week that delayed the rollout of the House bill.

But after Pelosi introduced it with great fanfare Tuesday, Blue Dogs complained that few, if any, of their concerns were fixed.
We heard the House Blue Dogs bark before - about the stimulus and about cap and trade. Then most of them rolled over for the bills that the leadership put up for a vote. We'll see if health reform accompanied by tax increases will be the one bone they won't go for.