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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blue Dog Coalition: 'We have not had legitimate negotiations'

Blue Dog Democrats stormed out of a healthcare reform meeting with Democratic leaders, accusing the leaders of negotiating in bad faith.

The Hill:

House healthcare negotiations dissolved in acrimony on Friday, with Blue Dog Democrats saying they were “lied” to by their Democratic leaders.

In advance of a subsequent press conference called by House leadership, Blue Dog liaison Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) said the healthcare bill should be staying in committee.

"I expect the committee process to proceed," Cardoza said.

The seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee stormed out of a Friday meeting with their committee chairman, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), saying Waxman had been negotiating in bad faith over a number of provisions Blue Dogs demanded be changed in the stalled healthcare bill.

“I’ve been lied to,” Blue Dog Coalition Co-Chairman Charlie Melancon (D-La.) said on Friday. “We have not had legitimate negotiations.

“Mr. Waxman has decided to sever discussions with the Blue Dogs who are trying to make this bill work for America,” Melancon said.

Although those Blue Dogs were supposed to be headed back into another meeting of the Energy and Commerce Democrats, their anger was visible.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the only hope for passage of the bill in the House will be to go straight to the floor, an option leaders shied away from endorsing but said was an option.

But the Blue Dogs issued dire warnings to leaders contemplating that approach.

"Waxman simply does not have votes in committee and process should not be bypassed to bring the bill straight to floor,” Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the lead Blue Dog negotiator, said on Friday. “We are trying to save this bill and trying to save this party.”

Seems that according to Waxman if the blue Dog Coalition doesn't fall in line, the party line, they are "aligning" themselves with Republicans.

More from The Politico:

Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross, the top negotiator for conservative Democrats in the 52-member Blue Dog Coalition, told reporters Friday that the negotiations "pretty much fell apart this afternoon."

The finger-pointing commenced shortly afterward, with Melancon believing he'd been lied to while Waxman complaining that "some Democrats would rather align with the Republicans."

The breakdown came in a Friday negotiating session after a broad swath of Democrats agreed to iron out regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates, a compromise that attracts more lawmakers to the bill.

Asked how this leaves negotiations, Ross said it "leaves the chairman with not enough votes to get it out of committee."

Waxman's own words confirm his mindset when he told reporters "We're either the majority party and work together, or we're not."

That is codespeak for toe the line, no independent thought is welcome and do as we say because we say to do it or you aren't a "real" Democrat.

Democratic leaders also threatened to bring it to a vote without getting it through the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The problem with that is there are between 40 and 45 members of the Blue Dog group that would vote against it and Republicans are united in their opposition to the bill, as written, which means the House does not have the votes needed to pass it.