First it was the Senate derailing Barack Obama’s big legislative priority, cap-and-trade, until after the summer recess. Later in the day, the House joined in what looks to be a mini-retreat from the President with the declining poll numbers. The Blue Dog Coalition has demanded a delay in producing a health-care reform bill, with a specific eye towards avoiding taxes and apparent opposition to the “public plan” Obama has demanded:
The drive to remake the nation’s health care system suffered yet another setback in Congress on Thursday when a pivotal group of House Democrats rebelled against leadership-backed legislation taking shape and sought additional time to make changes.
“We need to slow down and do it right,” Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., said outside a meeting of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 52 moderate to conservative Democrats. “It needs to do a much better job of cost containment” within the health care system, he added.
Other lawmakers said they were concerned about proposed tax increases, the rules on any government-sold insurance, and other issues that are key to implementing President Barack Obama’s call for sweeping legislation.
Ross said the group was drafting a letter to the Democratic leadership asking for additional time. Although he did not specify how much time, he said he believes no vote should take place until the fall — well after a midsummer informal deadline set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Something has the Democrats feeling the heat. Obama’s dropping poll numbers, especially among independents, have to have moderate Democrats worried about being seen as a rubber stamp for Obama’s big-spending policies. The Blue Dogs exist in large part because they convinced conservative voters that they could trust Democrats to maintain fiscal sanity better than the Republicans they replaced.
The news from pollsters and constituents look pretty bad for Democrats looking towards a midterm election in the middle of a deep recession and escalating unemployment. In Michigan, for instance, pollsters find that 75% of voters believe the country is going in the wrong direction, up from 71% in May. When considering the US as a whole, that number went from a 46% plurality in May to a 52% majority. Since Democrats have been in charge since January, the blame for that falls on one party. So far, where unions keep voters toeing the Democratic line, the respondents indicated they still trust the Democrats more to fix things, but they may be ready to bolt to the GOP in 2010 if the economy continues to falter (via William Amos).
The moderate and coal-belt Democrats in the Senate doomed cap-and-trade, and now the Blue Dogs in the House may put the brakes on nationalizing the health-care industry. If Obama can’t get either of those packages out of Congress this summer, he will suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of the friendliest Congress he will ever have.