Roundtable Discusses Blue Dog Health Care Deal

Roundtable Discusses Blue Dog Health Care Deal

By Special Report With Bret Baier - July 29, 2009


REP. STENY HOYER, (D-MD) HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I'm hopeful that this will move the bill forward. That's our intent, to move the bill forward, and to provide for a context in which we can get health care reform done when we come back after the August break.

WALT MINNICK, (D-ID) Blue Dog COALITION: Well, we all try to represent what we think is best for the country. And I would say the majority of the Blue Dogs think that this bill is not the best bill we can get, and we'd like to keep trying, would like to talk to our constituents, hopefully come up with a bill closer to what the Senate Finance Committee is considering.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: All this talk of a deal today, and Blue Dog Democrats signing on to a big deal in the Energy and Commerce Committee. It came down basically to four moderate House Democrats signing onto a compromise to cut the cost of the overall bill in that one committee by $100 billion, also, to make a few other changes.

But the House is not going to vote on anything until after the August recess.

Here is what one of the Blue Dogs, a member of the 52-member Blue Dog coalition said, "The 52-member Blue Dog coalition has not taken a group position on the draft health care legislation that is working through the committee process. Today's announcement signifies that the committee process is moving forward. The committee will work it's will, but the broader coalition has not ratified any agreements related to the draft legislation."

So what about this big deal and all the talk about it today? Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of "Fortune" magazine, and Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call."

Mort, we talked about all the different versions up on Capitol Hill. This is one of them in the Energy and Commerce Committee. Explain for the viewers what this deal was and how big of a deal it is.

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": I think it's a big deal in that probably now you can vote on a bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. So in a sense, this is moving the process along.

However, there is loads of trouble ahead. I mean, as you pointed out, the entire Blue Dog coalition, 52 members, has not endorsed this bill. There are a lot of objections to it.

And a bigger coalition in the House, the progressive caucus, 82 members, is mad at any kind of compromise that does not have a Medicare-like public option in it, an option that pays Medicare rates, which is designed to kill the private insurance industry.

And this is unacceptable so far to most of the Blue Dogs. It's utterly unacceptable to the Senate Finance Committee, to all Republicans, and somehow Obama is going to have to merge all these ideas together, because it's going to have to be him that's brokering the thing, and it's going to be enormously difficult.

BAIER: Quickly on the process. There are three bills in the House, two in the Senate. Most people in Washington look at the Senate Finance Committee as the possibility for any bipartisan compromise that comes out for health care reform, and so far they don't have a bill yet either, Nina.

NINA EASTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: But at least they are including Republicans.

This deal in this House committee, which is a deal, but it's not a done deal, even in the committee, I mean, they canceled a markup, which is a drafting legislation session this afternoon. The Democrats are back behind closed doors. They've ordered dinner in, as we speak, and Republicans are still shut out of the process. And as Mort suggested, they don't have problems just with Blue Dogs. They have problems also with the left is raising concerns about this.

The other question is these Blue Dogs say they have saved $100 billion. We haven't seen the details of that yet. But what they have done is sort of like a constituent service.

They've actually raised the cost of the bill by protecting payments to rural hospitals, which tend to be in the Blue Dog districts, rural hospitals, rural hospitals, rural providers. That's what they really wanted out of this, and that's what they got.

Now that's not a cost savings, though. So it's unclear where they're getting that cost savings from.

But, again, I think the real action is still going to be in the Senate simply because they're moving forward on this co-op plan that has probably more likelihood of passing.

BAIER: Fred?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Some of us are old enough to remember the magical savings like the $100 billion. Mort remembers, in Stockman's budgets for President Reagan, remember, the asterisk? These will be the cuts we'll tell you about later when we find them. And of course, they never materialized, as I'm sure this $100 billion wouldn't materialize either.

I think the most important thing was that they put off a vote in the House until after the recess.

Now, they're going to - here's what has to happen. President Obama and Democrats in favor of some sort of reform bill like this are going to have to change public opinion, because it is running rapidly in the other direction. As polls show - I know you have some polls.

BAIER: Yes, let's put up the Gallup poll, the effect new health care reform will have on your personal medical care - no change, 29 percent, 34 percent in Gallup say it will worsen it.

BARNES: And other polls, whether the Fox poll, the Rasmussen poll, or other polls, show that even a greater percentage of the American people think it will actually worsen their care. In other words, Obama care will make their care expensive, their taxes will go up, and the care will be worse.

This is what happened back in 1994 with Clinton care, same thing. And it's when you start discussing all the parts, and people don't like most of them, because we know, and are reminded again by the ABC/"Washington Post" poll this week that showed that the vast majority of Americans, nearly 90 percent, are pretty satisfied with the health insurance they have. Obviously some of the uninsured people aren't, but most Americans are. And to convince them, as Democrats have to do over the recess, that they need this huge change in their health care and their health insurance is going to be very difficult.

BAIER: Mort, Wendell Goler did a good job of lying out what a he cooperative is and how it will work. It is much like a credit union in some ways. What about the battle between the public option, federal government run, and the cooperatives that apparently are gaining steam in the Senate finance committee?

KONDRACKE: As I said before, the liberals do not like anything but a Medicare-style plan, government run, that sets prices at the Medicare rate.

BAIER: But the White House steps in and says what?

KONDRACKE: Right now, the White House is saying that they might go along with the co-op idea.

Now, the details of the co-op idea, and how it's going to work and whether there's going to be government subsidies on it, all of that has yet to be determined. Is it private? Is it government run? Is it government overseeing it? All of those details have yet to be determined.

EASTON: That's right. And those details, and that will determine the kind of support. I mean, you have people like Senator Schumer who say, ok, a co-op, but it should be government run, government subsidized kind of like a Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac model.

BARNES: What a plan!

EASTON: Exactly. I don't think you will get many Republicans onboard.

What Republicans want and probably the insurance industry would let go through without a huge battle is something more homegrown, run by members, not controlled by the government.

And so even on the co-op issue, you've got a division.

Special Report With Bret Baier

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