Concerned With Baucus, House Blue Dogs, Obama To Turn Up Heat On Health Care–Again

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It should come as no surprise, after last week’s ramp-up, and with August fast approaching, but President Obama will ratchet up his campaign this week to get the House and Senate to pass health care bill before their summer recesses. The White House is promising the President will take the lead on an aggressive public and private push, culminating in a prime time news conference this Wednesday.

High on their list of focal points will be Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) on the waylaid Senate Finance Committee and House Blue Dogs, who are threatening to derail the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee, where their numbers are impressive.

Baucus has been negotiating with committee Republicans for over a month in search of an elusive, and possibly illusory, bipartisan compromise–which was Obama’s preferred game plan when the process began. But that was before Republicans signaled near universal opposition to key measures like the public insurance option, and talks dragged weeks and weeks beyond when they were supposed to end successfully.

Meanwhile, in the House, Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), are running a blitz of their own, riled, they say, by the fact that leadership didn’t include them in negotiations when drafting the bill. Fortunately, for Democrats, Energy and Commerce is led by Henry Waxman, a seasoned legislator who lifted complex climate change legislation over similar hurdles just last month. That process, though, resulted in a number of major concessions, and some health reformers are worried that Blue Dogs will be able to extract yet more flesh out of this legislation.

Compounding their threats are the concerns of vulnerable Democratic freshmen, who worry about casting yet another controversial vote before election season heats up in the fall.

That’s a ton of moving parts. All told, and assuming that the House and Senate don’t push back their scheduled adjournment dates, we will likely know this week whether Obama and Democratic leaders will accomplish their near term–and perhaps most crucial–goal of passing bills in both chambers by August recess.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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