Despite rumors floating around Capitol Hill earlier this morning, Democrats will not rescue Barack Obama’s credibility by getting him a floor vote on ObamaCare this week. The Hill reports that Blue Dogs have successfully stalled the process until after the August recess as they try to win concessions in the bill’s composition:
The Blue Dogs and House leaders have struck a deal to guarantee that the House will not vote on a healthcare bill before August, a leading Blue Dog said on Wednesday.
In exchange for putting off a floor vote until after Labor Day, the Energy and Commerce Committee may be allowed to continue its markup of the healthcare bill this week even if an agreement has not been reached between Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and seven Energy and Commerce Committee Blue Dogs over the content of the bill.
Asked if House leaders had told Democrats that there will be no House vote on healthcare before Friday, Blue Dog Co-Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) said, “I don’t think [leaders have] made public statements to that regard, but my understanding is that that would be part of an agreement, if they actually do move forward with an Energy and Commerce markup that there will be no vote on the House floor until after Labor Day.” …
“There has been no official announcement on floor timing, but at this point, the odds are that we will not likely vote before we adjourn for August,” a Democratic leadership aide said.
Earlier rumors had the Democrats attempting to arrange a show vote in order to give Obama a little face-saving send-off to everyone’s vacation. Not only did Nancy Pelosi fail to get that much, Henry Waxman all but ran up the white flag on his bluff to bypass his own committee. The only concession made by the Blue Dogs was to continue working with Waxman to change the bill — hardly a defeat for the Blue Dogs, who refused to buckle to Waxman’s demand to take it as is.
Now the House will return to their constituents and hear an earful from all sides of the health-care debate, but the ground has shifted considerably in the meantime. The popularity of ObamaCare has plummeted as the costs have become more known, and so have Obama’s polling numbers. Moderates will face more conservative constituents, but even more traditionally liberal districts are going to look at hundred of billions of dollars in increased deficits with some skepticism.
When Congress reconvenes, expect the moderates to have even more pull — and for the split between Democratic leadership and its rank-and-file to widen.
Update: Both Fox and CNN are reporting that Blue Dogs have agreed to ObamaCare proposals in the House in exchange for about $100 billion in cuts to the program in order to make it less fiscally destructive. Both Fox and CNN are repeating that the bill will not get out to the House floor until the fall, however; the agreement is to get the bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee by Friday, when the House adjourns for its August recess.
If they’re right, this is a tremendously stupid move by Democrats. It gives the Republicans a fixed target for the next few weeks, with an ability to cite the actual legislation and pick it apart, while painting moderate Democrats as fools who haven’t bothered to read it. Having no final version of the bill would have allowed Democrats to dodge questions about it. This makes them stand on the bill for weeks without getting moved out of way. Call it political target practice, practically akin to shooting ducks in a barrel, for the GOP.
Update II: Ace has more, including some great ideas for activists on this issue.