Surgical Bypass

Rep. Henry Waxman is telling the Blue Dogs that if they don’t stop holding back the health care bill he’s going to let the bill bypass his Energy and Commerce Committee and let it go right to the floor.

By all means.

Ian Swanson and Mike Soraghan write for The Hill:

Waxman is now playing a game of legislative chicken with the Blue Dogs. He’s hoping the inclusion of a study on Medicare reimbursement rates in the healthcare overhaul will be enough to placate the centrist Democrats, who say the government program short-changes hospitals and physicians in their rural districts.

If that’s not, the seven Blue Dogs could join with the committee’s Republicans to “eviscerate” healthcare reform, and that’s something Waxman will not tolerate.

“I won’t allow them to hand over control of our committee to Republicans,” Waxman told reporters.

Matt Yglesias:

Something a lot of progressive legislative leaders seem to have forgotten until this Congress actually got under way is that historically congressional procedure is a challenge to be surmounted when you want big change to happen. It’s not actually a fixed feature of the landscape that people “have to” accommodate themselves to. For years you couldn’t get a decent Civil Rights bill because segregationists controlled the Judiciary Committee that had jurisdiction. This problem was “solved” by just deciding to bypass the Judiciary Committee. When you decide you want to get things done, you find a way to get them done.

Do it, Henry.

Update: Related — H/t to Mahareader David Rickard — conservative columnist Thomas Sowell explains at National Review Online why the system of paying for health care through private health insurance has to end:

Insurance companies are another distraction and a scapegoat, because they do not insure “preexisting conditions.” Stop and think about it: If you could wait until you got sick to take out health insurance, why would you buy that insurance while you are well?

You could avoid paying all those premiums and then — after you got sick — take out health insurance and let the premiums paid by other people pay for your medical treatment. …

…When Obama makes the insurance companies the villains for not insuring preexisting conditions, that gives him another distraction and enables him to be another escape artist, like Houdini.

The fact that Sowell doesn’t see his own argument as an admission that private health insurance simply can’t do the job says something, too.

Sowell’s basic argument is that we’d better keep our health care decisions in the hands of the for-profit insurance industry, because we can’t trust the government.

12 thoughts on “Surgical Bypass

  1. I’ve been curious about these Blue Dog hold outs (it sounds like such a fine name, doesn’t it?). David Sirota has an interesting article describing the three factions blocking all things progressive. Focusing on the Blue Dogs:

    You also have the Corrupt Cowboys – those lawmakers from very poor, mostly Southern and Western parts of the country. These people give themselves Americana sounding nicknames like “Blue Dog Democrats” or “Main Street Republicans” so as to pretend their opposition to health care comes from their being down home guys “representin’ the folks back home.” Of course, these same lawmakers are among the most rapacious corporate fundraisers and lobbyist-connected insiders in Congress. And as I pointed out yesterday, there’s no evidence that the districts and states the Corrupt Cowboys represent despise health reform by virtue of the fact that they are culturally conservative bastions. In fact, Nate Silver says there’s exactly the opposite evidence:

    Going directly to the Nate Silver article:

    There’s not really any evidence that health care reform is unpopular in the Blue Dog districts. Although there are exceptions, most of the Blue Dog districts are fairly poor. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this month suggested that while 53 percent of voters overall think “think it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure that everyone in the United States has adequate health care”, 61 percent of voters making under $50,000 do. Also, while Quinnipaic did not break out the results for moderate and conservative Democrats, which are plentiful in these Districts, one can reasonably infer them. In this poll, 79 percent of liberals agreed with the statement as did 77 percent of Democrats — not a very big difference. Since almost all liberals are Democrats and about half of all Democrats are liberals, that suggests that support for health care reform among non-liberal Democrats is something like 75 percent.

    I like the thought from Matt Yglesias. While we’re disappointed to varying degrees with how the first six months of the Obama administration has gone, a lot must be blamed on the atrophying of muscular progressivism within our legislatures.

  2. Sowell is an idiot. As I’ve explained on my own blog, sick people use 16% of the national GDP, yet do not make 16% of the national income. Eliminate insurance, where inherently well people are subsidizing the care of sick people whether said insurance is private or public, and you end up with a lot of dead people.

    Or Sowell is dishonest. Well, I bet on *both*, actually.

    – Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

  3. When did we Americans get to love the notion of blackballing so much? Health insurance companies blackball whole categories of illness, they blackball covering women who might be fertile.

    Now certain groups of elected representatives can assemble behind a label and blackball legislation.

  4. More dirt on the Blue Dogs, and their highly selective fiscal conservativism:

    …Certainly the Blue Dogs are astute players of the game, their power enhanced by their willingness to echo Republican rhetoric while enjoying the perks and prerogatives of Democratic power. But this is a cynical group indeed, whose reputation for fiscal probity is grossly inflated — and whose loyalty to corporate interests, over and above the priorities of their party and the welfare of their constituents, is a darkening stain.

    What supposedly troubles the Blue Dogs these days is the estimated cost of healthcare reform. By their calculations, a trillion dollars over 10 years represents an unsustainable expenditure, even if the program succeeds in providing universal quality coverage. The chairman of the Blue Dog healthcare task force, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., has repeatedly threatened to kill any reform bill that increases the deficit. “We have to take steps to hold healthcare costs to the rate of inflation, or we will never balance our federal budget again, and health insurance costs will continue to become less and less affordable for the American people,” he said last week.

    Holding healthcare costs to the rate of inflation is a laudable if unlikely goal for Ross and his fellow Blue Dogs, but the simple fact is that their concern over costs and deficits is highly selective — and their claim to fiscal conservatism is utterly unearned. That should be instantly obvious to anyone who glances at the Mike Ross House Web site, where all of his puffery about holding down the deficit and saving taxpayer money gives way to his boasting about the pork he brings home to Arkansas….

    Chances are that the river and port improvement projects forming the bulk of the Ross earmarks are perfectly legitimate — and that may well be true of most of the earmarks that the other Blue Dogs regularly grab for their home districts. But who knows? When talking to Washington reporters they proclaim their single-minded dedication to fiscal prudence; when talking to the home folks, they brag about their skill at pork barreling. So as sentinels of the public treasury, they have about as little credibility as the Republicans who used to control Congress.

    If the Blue Dogs were truly worried about wasteful spending, they might use their influence to curb the outrageous looting of the federal Treasury by defense contractors, which remains by far the largest drain on the public purse. They might have spoken out against the brazen theft of billions of dollars by private contractors in Iraq, whose thievery harmed troops as well as taxpayers. They might have cautioned against squandering hundreds of billions of dollars on programs that don’t work and probably never will, from the F-22 jet fighterBallistic Missile Defense System. to the

    Yet with precious few exceptions, the Blue Dogs whisper nary a word against military extravagance. If they are like Ross, they mindlessly endorse the expansion of virtually any and all military programs, simply because some of those dollars end up in their districts….Their silence is regularly shamed, or should be, by the efforts of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., an actual conservative who at least tries to trim around the fattiest edges of the defense budget.

    If the Blue Dogs aren’t really worried by wasteful spending, then what do they find so troubling about the prospect of change in healthcare? The unflattering answer, which may be found in a study just released by the Center for Public Integrity, is money. Corporate interests are showering dollars on the Blue Dogs and their political action committees in record amounts….These pooches heel when the lobbyists whistle.

    But why would we expect anything else from them?

    Let’s recall that the founder of the House Blue Dog caucus — and still a guiding mentor to its members — is Billy Tauzin, a Democrat from Louisiana who helped start the group in 1994 and then jumped ship to the Republicans a year later. Just months before he retired from Congress in 2005, he pushed through the Medicare prescription drug bill, guaranteeing hundreds of billions in waste and enormous profits for the drug companies….

    As soon as he left Congress, Tauzin became the chief lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, where he makes sure the Blue Dogs never get carried away with any of that rhetoric about fiscal prudence or holding down costs — by writing generous checks.

  5. Follow the money!!! It is just like the financial bubble — lots of money at the top, and lots of people left with with zip at the bottom!

  6. Wow, that was strange. From the preamble, I went into Sowell’s piece with the creepy idea that I was about to see him writing something true. Fortunately he came through in good form, and the planets are still in their orbits.

  7. Sowell is one of the dimmest bulbs on the Pundit Broadway.
    I can summarize any of his columns in one sentence, courtesy of Groucho Marx: If a Democrat proposes it, ‘whatever it is, I’m against it!’

  8. Oh, and Badtux, love your site:-)
    Maybe you know. When will Canadians switch from their beloved lumberboots to jackboots? Those of us in the United States of Canadain Lebensraum want to know…

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