U.S. Senator Evan Bayh
March 18, 2009
A diverse group of 16 Senate Democrats today announced the formation of a new moderate coalition that will meet regularly to shape public policy. The groupâ€™s goal is to work with the Senate leadership and the new administration to craft common-sense solutions to urgent national problems.
Leading the new group are Democratic Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. All three leaders are honorary co-chairs of Third Way, a progressive Democratic policy group, and Senators Bayh and Carper have led the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
In addition to Senators Bayh, Carper and Lincoln, others joining the group are Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Mark Warner of Virginia.
… the Moderate Dems are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as deficit containment, health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, energy policy and climate change.
For Blue Dogs, Health Budget Raises Questions of ‘When,’ Not Just ‘How’
By David Clarke
March 16, 2009
As the congressional budget panels prepare to write their fiscal 2010 blueprint, members of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats want to make sure that any expansion of health care coverage is fully paid for–and that its tax or spending offsets are guaranteed to yield savings down the road.
Leaders of the 51-member coalition wrote to the House and Senate Budget committees as well as congressional leaders stating their support for President Obama’s goal of offsetting the cost of a planned health care overhaul. But the Blue Dog leaders said they do not want the savings to be achieved too far in the future if new spending in the short term is going to exacerbate already high federal deficits.
“While we agree that reforming our health care system will eventually lead to savings, it would be irresponsible to take on additional large-scale deficit spending in the short term without the ability to definitively quantify future savings,” Blue Dog leaders wrote March 13 in a two-paragraph letter.
The Blue Dogs are major boosters of the congressional “pay as you go” budget rule that requires new mandatory spending or tax cuts to be fully offset with increases in revenue or spending cuts elsewhere.
By Don McCanne, MD
The Blue Dog coalition in the House of Representatives has often assisted Republicans in preventing the advancement or even the introduction of progressive legislation that increases government spending. Supposedly their mission is merely to avoid deficit spending by enforcing “paygo” rules (all new spending is offset with other program cuts or with new revenues), but all too often they seem to not only support elimination of deficit spending, but also the policy of “no new taxes.” It appears that they are not only concerned about deficits, but they also seem to want to avoid an increase in the size of the federal budget.
Now Sen. Evan Bayh and fifteen of his colleagues have decided to establish a Blue Dog-type coalition in the Senate. In an obvious effort to wield more power from the middle, they “are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as… health care reform…” Ouch!
Although most observers of the Washington political scene believe that the make or break on comprehensive health care reform will occur in the Senate, there are enough Blue Dogs in the House to not be discounted as major players since they could side with the Republicans if new taxes are used to comply with paygo.
But look at what has happened in the Senate. The moderate Democrats are no longer passive observers (not that they ever really were). Now with their newfound power, the battle for cloture has shifted. Instead of Democrats simply requiring one or two Republican votes to invoke cloture, they must also meet the demands of these sixteen Senate Blue Dog look-alikes. The Republicans now not only have one vote to spare on preventing cloture, they also have a very large buffer in the Democratic Party to prevent comprehensive tax-and-spend health care reform.
There goes any adequate government option to the private plans – “because of adverse selection, we can’t pay for it.” There goes adequate subsidies for private plans for average-income Americans – “without new taxes, we can’t pay for it.” There goes adequate regulatory oversight for the private plans – “unless we have high deductibles and stripped down benefits, the people can’t pay for the plans.”
Single payer would provide the Blue Dogs with the reform they want, or should want. Health care budgets would be balanced without increasing spending over our current level. They just have to understand that funneling health care dollars through our tax system is more efficient than turning them over to private insurers. They need to look at all dollars going into health care, and not just the public dollars.