House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman
On Friday afternoon negotiations between the House's Democratic leadership and the moderate Blue Dog Coalition came to a screeching halt. Although negotiations will be restarted, the Blue Dogs complained that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lead negotiator, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, have not been dealing in good faith. "I've been lied to...we have not had legitimate negotiations," Blue Dog Coalition Co-Chairman Charlie Melancon (D-La.) protested. The Blue Dog Coalition has 52 members, enough to hold up or defeat any piece of legislation if they stick together. As the moderate bloc of the Democratic caucus, the Blue Dogs are most vociferous with respect to deficit spending, taxation, and budgetary concerns.
Nancy Pelosi's unstable leadership, obstinacy, and deceit on health care have shown once again that the Democrats care less about the process than the political upside to just having something in the can. Fundamentally reshaping the way health care is delivered and financed in this country, however, deserves careful, thorough, and transparent deliberation. Systemic reform is necessary, but stakeholders (the public, insurance companies, health care providers, and particularly other members of Congress) must be given ample opportunity to analyze everything that's being considered. Every day people are losing or being denied coverage while costs and premiums continue to escalate at a staggering pace. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, hold huge majorities in both houses of Congress and are so desperate to get something done that they're lying to members of their own caucus. The Blue Dogs are concerned that the measures being considered will not adequately control systemic costs and will lead to budgetary shortfalls. Valid concerns that can be ironed out with honest and thoughtful negotiation. Based on their actions, however, much of the Democratic leadership is clearly not interested in transparency and deliberate decision-making.
The break down of talks is a golden opportunity for Republicans to prove themselves worthy of Americans' trust once again. GOP leaders must attempt to bring the Blue Dogs to the table in order to forge a deal and to move a piece of compromise legislation. It will be mostly a Democratic bill because Democrats hold majorities in both houses. However, the need and political will for reform exists. A bill will be passed. Republicans can refuse to participate in negotiations or they can be a voice of moderation, pragmatism, and compromise at a time when the Democrats don't even seem to be able to compromise with themselves. Congressional leaders of all stripes need to put aside politics to make good, deliberate decisions. Those in the GOP who have decided to dig in and embrace a futile demagoguery against reform should stand down and let calmer voices prevail. The future of medicine, not to mention this country's financial solvency, is at stake.