Congressional 'Centrists' Meeting on Healthcare
by Charles Lemos, Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:24:47 PM EDT
According to The Hill, self-described "centrist" lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are working together privately on healthcare reform.
The talks have been so secretive and politically sensitive that some members interviewed by The Hill refused to name other legislators involved in the bipartisan effort.
Members of the centrist GOP "Tuesday Group," the New Democrat Coalition and the 52-member Blue Dog Coalition have been discussing both the policies and politics of moving their middle-of-the-road ideas in a body of Congress usually dominated by liberal or conservative ideology.
Those centrist factions are wary of the proposals their respective leaders will introduce this month. Blue Dogs are leery of the so-called public option in the healthcare reform bill that is expected to hit the House floor this summer. Meanwhile, GOP centrists opted to release their own healthcare plan a day before House GOP leaders are scheduled to unveil their reform package.
Noting that some members could be retaliated against by their leaders, some lawmakers declined to mention to whom they were talking. Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) said that he wouldn't "throw [Blue Dogs] under the bus" by revealing the identities of his Democratic colleagues.
Asked last Friday about talks with GOP centrists on healthcare reform, Blue Dog Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.) confirmed that his colleagues are actively working on compromises.
"A lot of us have tried to work together -- and I'm pleased to see that some of the centrists on their side of the aisle are willing to work with some centrists on the Democratic side of the aisle, and I think you will see that work continue," Davis said.
An aide to Davis later clarified that the congressman meant that "Blue Dogs have met with leaders from all sides in the past on a number of issues, but he wasn't referring to anything specifically that happened recently."
Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), a longtime leader of the 34-member Tuesday Group, said that "these conversations take place on a piecemeal basis, but there's no formal meetings."
The efforts seem more ad hoc than anything else. It is nonetheless disconcerting that members of the Democratic Party can not bring themselves to support a public option.