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House Progressives Rebel on Health Care, Tell Blue Dogs to Get Stuffed

blue dog trash

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We’re hearing that the Congressional Progressive Caucus is not going to lie down and get rolled by the Blue Dogs on the Health Care bill. They are having a press conference at 2:30 on the Hill, and they are circulating a letter for signatures. What the letter will contain is unclear, but at this point they are saying they have the votes to defeat the Waxman-Blue Dog compromise on the floor.

From The Hill:

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.

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Liberals aimed to win 50 signatures on a letter to their leaders opposing the deal to make it clear they could defeat the healthcare bill on the floor.

“Fifty is our threshold,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the caucus. “That’ll kill anything.”

The White House and Democratic leaders moved quickly to try to quell the liberal insurrection. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called a group of liberals to her office in the mid-afternoon, and Democrats postponed plans to continue a stalled markup of the bill by the Energy and Commerce Committee until Friday.

Biggest non-surprise: Jan Schakowsky is once again tapped as "most likely to lead the bail."

I’m cautiously optimistic. Look, we always knew that if there was any hope for a public plan whatsoever, it would come from progressives in the House. We said from day one of the whip count effort:

There are 178 Republicans in the House. A House majority is 218. If all of the Republicans agree to vote against something, as they indicate they will on health care, then any 40 Democrats banding together can control the passage of a bill (218 – 178 = 40).

Stated another way: if 40 Democrats in the House say they will not vote for any health care bill that does not have a strong public plan, then they have the same power that a Ben Nelson or an Evan Bayh has had in the Senate to determine the outcome–when every vote was needed to pass something. Every commitment we get in excess of that 40 makes the commitment even more powerful.

It appears they’re doing it. For now anyway. The arm twisting has already started — but that’s why it’s so important to get them on the record now, and get them to take the pledge. Because it’s going to be a long, hard haul to the end of conference, and the fight has just begun.

Keep calling. This is the first time anything even close to this has happened, and the calls you make letting progressive members of Congress know what you expect is making it possible.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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