- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BLUE DOGS

Merrill Matthews, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance and a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, wonders whether the Blue Dog Democrats are really what they say they are.

“Republicans have long called themselves fiscal conservatives. But after their spending spree in the first six years of the Bush administration, they are widely perceived to have tarnished their brand,” Mr. Matthews writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“Are the Blue Dogs tarnishing their brand, too? If 80 percent of them voted for the stimulus bill and nearly 75 percent voted for the 2010 federal budget, can the group rightfully claim to be fiscally conservative?

“The health care bill will be the final test. The House legislation will cost at least $1 trillion over 10 years, including around $550 billion to $600 billion in new taxes. That doesn’t count the employer mandate that will force employers to provide coverage or pay a penalty.

“If all House Republicans oppose the bill, which seems likely, the Blue Dogs have enough votes to make or break health care in the House. Blue Dog Mike Ross of Arkansas says the bill can’t pass the House. He’s right, but only if 40 Blue Dogs or other Democrats vote against the bill.

“The Democratic leadership and the president will put enormous pressure on the Blue Dogs to support the legislation. Now we’ll see if the Blue Dogs have bite to go along with their bark.”

HENRY’S CHARMS

“It’s been a rough couple of days for Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), who’s trying to get a health care bill through the House Energy and Commerce Committee,” Jim Geraghty writes at NationalReview.com.

“A National Journal CongressDaily headline on Thursday none too subtly declared that ‘Waxman’s Approach Raises Questions,’ with a member of the committee, Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.), declaring he will try to hold up the legislation on the floor if he isn’t allowed a vote on an amendment to prohibit federal funding for abortion.

“On Friday, Waxman became so frustrated with the ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that he threatened to have the legislation bypass his own committee. Needless to say, an attempt to block out the 52 or so Blue Dogs was supremely risky; it would almost certainly guarantee their opposition and probably make passage impossible if the Republicans stood unified in opposition,” Mr. Geraghty said.

“Then Rep. Charlie Melancon (D., La.), co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition, emerged from negotiations declaring that Waxman had ‘lied to’ him and his allies; Melancon also accused the chairman of deciding to ‘sever discussions with the Blue Dogs who are trying to make this bill work for America.’ The fury of the seven Blue Dogs on the committee suggested that a permanent wedge had been driven between the panel’s Democrats.

“The development left Republican congressional staff stunned. ‘We were really surprised by the tone,’ said one GOP staffer following the health care debate closely. ‘I’ve been up on Capitol Hill for a number of years now, and I’ve never seen a member come out and say that a chairman of his own party has lied to him. … Maybe he’s getting a lot of backlash in his district about the cap-and-trade bill.’ ”

RAH-RAH

“Liberal hopes for a quick health care bill are in collapse, as Senate Democrats push any floor action off until the fall, a move House Democrats may match this week. But if the Obama White House is upset that their plans for a huge expansion of government health care have been delayed, they surely cannot complain about the media coverage,” the Media Research Center’s Rich Noyes and Julia Seymour write at www.mrc.org.

“Last week, a new study by the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute (BMI) found broadcast coverage during the first six months of 2009 tilted heavily in favor of Barack Obama’s big-government plan. BMI’s analysts looked at 224 health care stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows from Obama’s January 20 inauguration through his June 24 prime-time special on ABC.

“Among the key findings:

• “Fully 70 percent of sound bites (243 out of 347 total) supported Obama’s liberal health care ideas. Only 9 percent of stories (21) suggested the total price tag for Obama’s ‘reform’ would top $1 trillion.

• “Reporters exaggerated the number of uninsured Americans. Omitting noncitizens, those capable of paying, or those eligible for assistance programs already in place, a reasonable figure would be between 8 million and 14 million uninsured, not the ‘50 million Americans’ statistic BMI’s analysts found touted by the networks.

• “The networks also spent virtually no time investigating states that had experimented with big government health schemes - just one story on how Massachusetts’ plan for mandatory health insurance is working out (costs are rising faster than expected), and no stories on Hawaii’s already-cancelled program to insure all children.”

TEACH YOURSELF

“It has been two weeks since his arrest by Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley, and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. still needs an attitude adjustment,” Ruben Navarrette writes in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“That’s what my father’s generation of old-school law enforcement officers was known to provide now and then when someone mouthed off, or lobbed insults, or challenged their authority. Today, folks on the job refer to this sort of thing as ‘contempt of cop.’ It’s not illegal, but it’s also not a smart thing to do if you have an aversion to handcuffs and steel bars, since there are plenty of other things for which you can be arrested,” Mr. Navarrette said.

“Just ask Gates, who was written up for ‘loud and tumultuous behavior’ at his house.

“What needs adjusting isn’t Gates’ attitude toward law enforcement; that’s between him and the police. The real problem is his presumptuous attitude toward the rest of us. The professor needs to stop calling what happened to him a ‘teaching moment.’ We’re not his students. More importantly, we’re not the ones who let our ego get the best of us and went ballistic over a simple and harmless request to provide identification.”

The columnist, noting that President Obama said he sees this incident as a “teachable moment,” added: “Oh, dear. Just what does the president think is the lesson from all this, and who does he think needs to learn it?”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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