As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Always Darkest Sausage-Making Before The Dawn

Ezra gives the 10,000-foot view of today's health care crackup in the House, and Henry Waxman's dicey choice on how to resolve it:

The central issue here is simple enough: The Blue Dogs want Waxman to make concessions he doesn't want to make. The sticking points, according to sources close to the process, are the public plan -- Blue Dogs still want a trigger option -- and the administration's proposal, which the Blue Dogs support, to create an independent commission able to set Medicare payment rates and make reforms. Waxman and others worry that a Republican administration and Congress could use this panel to undermine the Medicare program.

You can take Waxman's statements one of a couple ways. His willingness to bring the bill directly to the floor undermines the bargaining power of the Blue Dogs: It means they don't have veto power over the bill. This could, in other words, be a negotiating tactic on Waxman's part to soften the Blue Dogs' position. But if that doesn't work, it could also mean exactly what it says: That he's going to push the bill straight to the floor.

That would ensure some bad headlines, and an angry Blue Dog caucus. But versions of this bill have passed two other committees. Energy and Commerce isn't strictly necessary. Waxman's threat to bring the bill to the floor means that Pelosi and Waxman think they have the votes whether or not Energy and Commerce approves the legislation. And that may not be such a bad outcome, either for the Democrats or the Blue Dogs.

But Blue Dogs might balk, because they don't want to walk the plank on a bill if the Senate Finance Committee won't walk it either. We're basically seeing a game of chicken, between Waxman and the Blue Dogs as well as between the House and the Senate. Nobody wants to take the tough vote first. But somebody has to, in order to get the ball rolling.

Brian Beutler discerns tension and chaos on the Hill, but I've heard different. I heard Waxman and Mike Ross have stated that talks are ongoing and that a markup could be held as early as Tuesday. And that Steny Hoyer said publicly at a press conference that votes could happen next week. So we don't really know what's going on quite yet. It's hard not to despair just as a reflex, but I wouldn't just yet.

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