Healthcare Heat on the Blue Dogs

House and Senate Democrats are moving full speed ahead with their healthcare overhaul after last week’s lengthy summit.

Yesterday, President Obama said “no matter which approach you favor, I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on health-care reform," abstaining from using the word reconciliation but calling for an “up or down vote.”

But before leadership can go forward with the legislative process known as reconciliation or the “nuclear option” in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must once again round up the 216 votes needed for the bill to pass in the House, putting a bright spotlight back on the 54 so called fiscally conservative Democrat members in the Blue Dog Coalition who should oppose the $950 billion dollar package.

The House last voted on healthcare November of last year, passing it with a razor-thin margin of only three votes (220).  The Blue Dog coalition was split with approximately half of the members voting for the bill (See Blue Dogs who voted for government run healthcare here).

This time around, if just a handful of Blue Dogs who voted for it in November switch their vote, there is a chance to stop the latest rendition of Obamacare making moderate Democrats, yet again, a crucial voting bloc.

President Obama and the Democrats leading Congress have made it very clear that they will do whatever it takes to pass their government run healthcare agenda despite objections from Republicans and over half of the country. Obama doesn’t care if this unpopular bill renders him a one term president and Democrat Congressmen and Senators have been instructed to “take one for the team” if a “yes” vote would kill any re-election probability in the fall.

It’s important now — more than ever — that the Blue Dog Coalition is held accountable should they buck the values of their constituents that they have sworn to uphold by voting in lock step with Pelosi as they have done 78% of this Congress.

Blue Dogs claim to be “particularly active on fiscal issues, relentlessly pursuing a balanced budget and then protecting that achievement from politically popular ‘raids’ on the budget,” according to their website. But as I have written before, since the beginning of this congressional session — which has spent more tax dollars than any other in the history of the United States — it’s been hard to see how valid their claims to fiscal conservatism are.

Of the bills that fiscal conservatives cared about most this Congress said “Blue Dogs” did little to help. Ninety six percent of Blue Dogs voted for SCHIP, 82 % voted for TARP (the bailout), 80% voted for the Stimulus Package, while only two of (at the time) a 52 member coalition voted for the Republican alternative to the Stimulus Package.

Last week Democrats Jane Harman (CA-36), Leonard Boswell (IA-03),  Dennis Moore (KS-03), Loretta Sanchez (CA- 47), Adam Schiff (CA-29), David Scott (GA, 13) and  Mike Thompson (CA-01) were all rated 0% by the American Conservative Union for their votes in 2009. These Blue Dogs voted not only for the healthcare bill in November, but also for the bailout, the Stimulus Package, Cap and Trade and SCHIP. How can they accurately associate themselves with anything fiscally responsible?

(see all Blue Dog ACU ratings here)

The Blue Dog Coalition website states that “In the 111th Congress, the Coalition continues to make a difference in Congress by forging middle-ground, bipartisan answers to the current challenges facing the Country…The group also expects to be involved in a variety of issues, where the stale extreme left vs. right approach requires a breath of fresh air.”

Harmon, Boswell, Moore, Sanchez, Schiff, and Thompson have voted with Nancy Pelosi, who is most certainly part of the extreme left, 100% of the 111th Congress based on 10 crucial votes. What grounds do they have to call themselves “Blue Dogs?”

The GOP has already begun to rally against the Blue Dog Coalition and the National Republican Trust PAC has put together a chart in which constituents can evaluate how their representative has voted. Different than HUMAN EVENTS previous evaluations of the Blue Dogs, NRT PAC also has indexed which Blue Dogs are in districts that voted for Sen. John McCain in the last presidential district. According to NRT PAC 18 Blue Dogs are especially vulnerable.

It’s time to hold the their feet to the fire. Yesterday Obama, on healthcare, said “in the end, that’s what this debate is about — it’s about the kind of country we want to be.” What kind of country do the Blue Dogs want it to be?

(Since the last time HUMAN EVENTS highlighted their actions members Betsy Markey of Colorado, Scott Murphy of New York and Kurt Schrader of Oregon have joined the Blue Dog Coalition while one member, Parker Griffith of Alabama, left the Democratic Party and joined House Republicans.)