KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Blue Dog Democrats Still Expect Health Care Reform Deal

The leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat coalition said Tuesday that she still thinks a health care reform deal can get done with a majority of Blue Dogs supporting it, The New York Times reports.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a South Dakota Democrat, "said she still believed that she - and perhaps a majority of the more than 50 Blue Dogs - could ultimately get behind a health care package if it was reasonable and represented a consensus Democratic view. … The political temperature of the Blue Dogs - and their ideological counterparts in the Senate - after the five-week recess is crucial. As representatives of some of the nation's most conservative territory represented by Democrats, they potentially have the most to lose if a Democratic bill spurs a backlash. Even with healthy majorities in Congress, every Democratic vote is critical given the reluctance by some Democrats to consider a major overhaul and near-blanket Republican opposition."

"But even as some moderate and conservative Blue Dogs signaled they were still ready to move forward, it was clear that others could support only a substantially scaled-back approach. That could mean a bill that would fall short of the Democratic goal of extending coverage to the almost 50 million people without health insurance."

"'Without wholesale changing the bills, I just don't see how it's going to work,' said Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia" (Hulse, 9/1).

Meanwhile The Boston Globe reports that Democrats are looking closer at using budget reconciliation in the Senate to push health care reforms through with a simple majority of votes: "Senate Democrats are still hoping they can forge a compromise with moderate Republicans and avoid a dramatic showdown after Congress ends its summer recess and resumes its work. But that appears to be less likely. Key GOP negotiators in the Senate are rapidly distancing themselves from Democratic proposals, and the GOP this week renewed its push to convince Americans that sweeping change is not needed. That means Democrats may soon decide to go it alone, employing a somewhat rare parliamentary tactic called 'reconciliation.'"

"Meant to allow important budget bills to move through the chamber more easily, the procedure has been invoked only occasionally - by Republicans to pass tax cuts in 2003, for example, and by Democrats to pass President Clinton's budget in 1993" (Wangsness and Issenberg, 9/2).

Related KHN story: Democrats' Strategy To Avoid Filibuster Carries Serious Risks

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