July 22, 2009

Obama will appear on the teevee tonight, further ramping up his push for healthcare reform. In the meantime, the Blue Dogs are sharpening their teeth in hopes of further weakening the bill. I'm trying to remember if they ever expressed similar concerns over funding Mr. Bush's little Middle East adventure, but I seem to be drawing a blank. Hmm.

(CNN) -- As President Obama prepares to address the nation in a primetime news conference, some sources say Democratic grumbling about his plan for health care is growing louder.

One Democratic senator told CNN that some congressional Democrats are "baffled," and another senior Democratic source told CNN that those members are frustrated that that they're not getting more specific direction from him on health care.

"We appreciate the rhetoric and his willingness to ratchet up the pressure but what most Democrats on the Hill are looking for is for the president to weigh in and make decisions on outstanding issues," the senior Democratic congressional source said.

"Instead of sending out his people and saying the president isn't ruling anything out, members would like a little bit of clarity on what he would support -- especially on how to pay for his health reform bill," the source added.

Yeah, I talked to one of the reform staffers last night, who told me the real battle now is over how to pay for it. My source tells me a lot of these "reasonable" proposals being floated in this phase have the potential to inflict long-term damage on the bill, that the work being done on the bill is so arcane and complicated that showboating congressmen don't have a clue - and don't bother to inform themselves.

The Democratic leadership had hoped the work going on behind closed doors for months could bear fruit in time for the president's news conference Wednesday night.

But multiple Democratic sources told CNN that's looking very unlikely, and one senior Democratic source said some Democratic leaders are frustrated that Senate negotiators have, "repeatedly missed deadlines."

The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats said Tuesday night that they reached one breakthrough on controlling the cost of health care at a meeting with Obama, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman and other House Democrats.

Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross, D-Arkansas, told reporters after the meeting that the group came to a "verbal agreement," to add a "some type of hybrid of an independent Medicare advisory council " that would set reimbursement rates for health care providers to the House Democrats' bill. He referred to the agreement as a "breakthrough."

But Ross cautioned it was only one of 10 items that the Blue Dogs wanted changed.

I read this really interesting piece on Blue Dogs by David Sirota that pretty much sums up the problem:

What's really going on is this: "Blue Dogs" and "conservative Democrats" tend to represent swing states and districts - that is, states and districts that are among the very few that aren't gerrymandered and therefore actually play host to competitive elections. Because of this, their re-election races tend to be especially expensive, which means these politicians have to raise a sh*t-ton of cash for television ads. How, pray tell, do career politicians raise a sh*t-ton of cash? They trade their votes and legislative maneuvers for corporate campaign money, most of it coming from special interests in Washington who have little to no grassroots support/connection to the politician's state/district. The special-interest, D.C.-centric nature of these bribes is only enhanced by the fact that many of the "Blue Dog" and "conservative Democratic" districts/states are rather poor, meaning the money-sucking politicians are all but compelled to rely on out-of-state cash for their warchests.

All of this creates a closed circuit that serves the status quo. A "conservative Democratic" politician from a swing state needs to raise millions to finance a competitive campaign. There's not a lot of loose money lying around the district, considering the recession and the destitution of the very kind of district the "conservative Democrat" comes from. So the "conservative Democrat" ends up relying on money from D.C. special interests like, say, health insurers - interests that are largely hated in the "conservative Democrat's" state and have little grassroots connection to the state. That money then buys House and Senate votes that prevent stuff like health care reform that would most benefit the constituents of economically struggling states like the "conservative Democrat's" state.

In the end, because of this kind of transaction, the state remains destitute, and the politician remains in office, keeps raising out-of-state cash, and keeps insisting with a sh*t-eating grin that it's crazy - just crazy! - for anyone to think their votes could be influenced by millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the cycle starts right over on whatever new economic issue is coming down the pike - all while the f***stick Villagers in D.C. use euphemisms like "conservative Democrats" and "moderate districts" to explain it all away with an absurd storyline that insists because a politician comes from a state that likes guns, loves Jesus and/or hates gay people, he has to oppose health care reform.

This is the swamp of propaganda and corruption that passes for "democracy." At least we can be aware of it, and stop pretending rank-and-file voters' cultural conservatism automatically means they want their congressman to be an economic corporatist.

Which tells me it would be a very productive use of our time and money to fight for free TV time for political campaigns.

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