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Liberals Raise Concerns Over Blue Dog, Baucus Efforts on Health Bill

Progressive House Democrats on Tuesday voiced their concerns to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that conservative Blue Dogs and a key Senate Democrat are sabotaging health care reform.

About two dozen liberal Members trickled in and out of the hour-long meeting with Pelosi, who discussed strategy for moving the bill forward if Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is unable to reach a deal with Blue Dogs this week.

“There was a lot of talk about the Blue Dogs,— said one lawmaker, who noted that Pelosi is walking “a very delicate line— as she tries to keep a Democratic coalition together on the bill.

“She won’t criticize them. She says they’re representing their constituents. She’s being very careful. But other Members are not being as charitable,— said the progressive Democrat.

Lawmakers exiting the meeting said there were no new developments since they are still waiting to see if Blue Dogs will agree to a deal with Waxman and what that deal will look like.

Beyond the Blue Dogs, progressives also had concerns about Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) attempting to strip the public insurance option — a must for House liberals — from the bill. While Pelosi reiterated her support for a public plan, some Members worried Baucus is being influenced by insurance companies to gut that provision.

“The feeling is, he’s working to subvert the bill,— said one lawmaker. “Somebody’s got to raise the question about pay to play’ here at some point. I mean, it’s like what the hell is going on here.—

At this stage, however, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said, liberals feel secure that Pelosi has their back when it comes to keeping a public plan in the bill. She sought to tone down tensions with Blue Dogs over the issue.

“It’s not us against the Blue Dogs. Let’s make the insurance companies come to the table,— Woolsey said.

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