Democrats Battle On Health Care

The knives are out in Washington, D.C. and the halls of Congress, as the Democratic Party is ground zero for what could be a very nasty fight over health care reform, especially if the House can't force a vote on a bill this week.

When last week ended, the more moderate Blue Dogs were back at the negotiating table with Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, after a day of finger pointing and brinksmanship that achieved nothing.

But if you think it's just the Blue Dogs who are standing in the way of this bill, that's too simplistic, as a variety of different groups want a variety of different things - making it very difficult for Democrats to find a majority coalition.

For example, the Progressive Caucus (80 strong) says it wants no compromise on a public insurance option.

But that's a non-starter for the Blue Dogs.  They don't like the idea at all.

The Blue Dogs want tougher rules on how Medicare reimbursement rates are set for doctors and hospitals, something the White House embraced.

But that's not popular with many liberals, and is also aggravating doctors and hospital groups.

The Blue Dogs and many freshman Democrats don't like the surtaxes on top earners to pay for reform.

Liberals fear any effort to water down a host of plans in the Democratic leadership bill.

And the list of grievances goes on and on.

All the while, Republicans get to stand on the sidelines, lobbing verbal grenades and talking about big government, big taxes and big mistakes.

With the Senate not headed for a vote until after Labor Day, the question has to be asked - is health care reform in 2009 headed for defeat like the Clinton plan of 1994?

In one sense, I do feel like I'm watching a movie that I have already seen.

Back then, Democrats couldn't agree among themselves on how to forge a bill.  They were unable to even force a vote in the full House or Senate.

Fast forward to August 2009.

Even with various industry groups on his side, President Obama is having serious problems getting a bill out of Congress.

Even with big majorities in the House and Senate, Democratic leaders almost seem powerless to forge an agreement on reform.

And all the while, more liberal lawmakers and their supporters are feeling the bile rise in their throat.

They want action and they want it now.  But like conservatives in the Republican Party, the liberals sort of forget, they aren't a majority within their own party.

Which means compromise is essential.  And I'm not talking about little compromises, but major concessions.

We'll see what the Democrats are made of in the days and weeks ahead.