House Leadership Reaches Deal With Blue Dogs, Provokes Progressive Ire

Pick up votes on the right and you just might find yourself losing votes to the left:

A House leadership deal with Blue Dogs and an aggressive marketing push by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) shifted the healthcare debate sharply toward centrist positions Wednesday, sparking threats of rebellion from the left. […] The Blue Dogs’ deal, which cut $100 billion from the healthcare reform price tag, was instantly denounced by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who said, “It’s unacceptable. We’re not going to vote for anything that doesn’t have a robust public plan.”

The specific issue here seems to be the degree to which the public option available to the minority of Americans eligible to participate in health insurance exchanges will be allowed to use Medicare reimbursement rates. I think the general sense is that this uproar is out of proportion to the relatively modest amount that was conceded on substance. But the fight is about more than the specifics of the fight; it’s about the fact that liberal Democrats feel powerless within their own caucus relative to the Blue Dogs even though they badly outnumber Blue Dogs. To gain leverage, you need to show some ability to throw fits, to hang together, to threaten to derail things, and to demand some courting and hand-holding.

What’s more, one of the non-substantive things the Blue Dogs got was a concession to delay a full House vote until September so that they don’t need to act in advance of the Senate. That, in turn, generally ratchets-down the level of intensity surrounding the issue for this week and will let more liberal members feel that starting fights isn’t really delaying anything, since it’s all being delayed until September anyway.