Blue Dog Capitulation & The Electoral Weakness Bargaining Chip

Nate Silver has a diary up in which he follows conventional wisdom to come up with the unremarkable conclusion that it will be the progressives who will have to compromise. I dispute his claim because of the relative bargaining positions of the progressives and Blue Dogs on healthcare reform.

Nate's reasoning for concluding that the progressives will have to compromise?

"As the Energy and Commerce Committee happens to be quite representative of the House as a whole, this vote is useful in forecasting the bill's overall prospects. Specifically, as it did in the committee, the compromise appears to be favored to win the support of the full House, although probably by a very narrow margin."

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/08/h ealth-care-bill-has-little-margin-for.ht ml#comments

I think Nate is a major political thinker, but I dispute his logic here. His reliance on models is off the mark because it relies on models, not bargaining positions. A little secret of bargaining is that often one can have the weaker hand, and out bargain one's opponent. In Texax Hold'em, it is called the bluff. Here, that's the chief issue- do the progressives realize they have the stronger hand? Or, that contra-DC bubble wisdom, the Blue Dogs almost certainly are bluffing?

The outcome of healthcare reform will depend on one variable, and one variable alone- whether it survives the recess. If it does, the group that will have to capitulate are the Blue Dogs because they are in the weaker bargaining position. They will have played their bluff as far as they can reasonably take it without it having electoral consequences to them personally. The reality is that it does not matter how much money you get as campaign contribution if you are voted out of office. Yes, they could theorectically become lobbist, but how many want to take that gamble?

If progressives are smart, in a game of chicken over the final bill, the group that absolutely can not afford to have healthcare reform fail this year for the purposes of their electoral prospects in the coming years are the Blue Dogs. They need us to survive electorally. The reverse is not necessarily true.

The margin for victory in their districts are thinner than those for progressives. We are not discussing a bill like the Climate Bill where their districts were probably against reform. Here, with healthcare, their districts overwhelmingly support healthcare reform. This is why the recess is their only chance of killing reform. They must change their district's views on healthcare reform.

Let's remember that the polling numbers say that a supermajority of Americans want healthcare reform. A supermajority wants the public option.

Let's also remember that the reason why the Blue Dogs acted as they have acted was for the purpose of stalling the bill, and using that time to kill it. If the bill survives the recess, they will have run out of their chief strategy for stopping it- time. Without that time, what do they strategically have left?

If you want to think of it another way: they were not trying to stall because they have the votes to pass the bill they want on the floor. This is counter to their behavior. They have been stalling to prevent a progressive victory. Not because a centrist one loomed. It is not about idealogical composition of Congress. It is about who has what to lose. The same is almost certainly true in the Senate where the most conservative committee has been stalling for quite some time because they know the dynamics are against them. It is what people with weak hands do. They try to stall to get a better one.

If progressives are smart (so far-they have been), they will continue the game of escallation of pressure against the leadership and Blue Dogs. The Blue Dogs can not in their districts with such tight re-elect margins afford to lose any Democrats. The GOP voting block supports the public option too so they would lose nothing with the GOP voters by voting with progressives. They could, however, lose Democratic voters if they have no healthcare reform bill to taut in an off year election that will give them that needed margin. The Democrats that would survive would almost certainly be more liberal than those that are now influencing the push rightward. This is not, by the way, the goal. This is the pressure that pushes them to go left if the progressives are smart.

That's the electoral bargaining chip that no one is discussing.

The House Leadership is no better. The Leadership needs the progressives more than they need the Blue Dogs. Why? Because the progressives will make or break whether there is a bill or not, but the Blue Dogs can only threaten to not pass the bill. And, that's the point. The Blue Dogs can only threaten. They have no margin for actually following through on their threat on the final bill. The progressive caucus can do more than threaten. They face no personal electoral lose if they vote no. That's their power here.

This all requires that progressives play the game better than the Blue Dogs. To realize, that the Blue Dogs are all bark, no bite here. To realize, that the leadership needs them, more than they need the leadership.

Will they realize this? I do not know. I certainly believe this will come down to overcoming years of conventional wisdom that has told them that the reverse is true. That they need the Blue Dogs.

So, I predict, if the progressives are smart, we will see a lot of Blue Dogs complain, then pass the bill, regardless of what the final bill looks like.

Tags: Blue Dogs, Congress, prediction, Progressive Cause, Recess (all tags)

Comments

11 Comments

Re: Blue Dog Capitulation & Th

I am not sure the blue dogs stalled the bill because they wanted to kill healthcare reform , infact that theory doesn't make much sense , if any...

There could be a few who want to do that , but I believe the majority of them are skeptical because of the rush to pass legislation , the budget deficit , the cost of the reform , the cbo analysis and generally the impact of the legislation on the economic situation . I would think majority of them are in favor of some form of legislation as long as it addresses this concerns...

The blue dogs seem to reflect exactly where the majority of the population is nationally and no doubt where their districts are ..

As long as the blue dogs continue to reflect district and national position , especially as polls indicate control of the deficit and spending is a higher priority than the rush to pass legislation , they would be in a better bargaining position than the liberals .....

by lori 2009-08-01 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Blue Dog Capitulation & Th

a) Penny wise, pound foolish: Worrying about budget deficits with reforms that will cost 100 bil a year to solve a problem that is costing 1 trillion in wasted GDP. From 15 percent GDP to 20 Percent GDP increase is expected. Most of that from the private sector.  Or, as one person at Daily Kos put it- under Bush he paid 500 extra in taxes, but lost 7000 k per year to increased healthcare costs.

b) Not even a penny wise. What their "compromise" meant for the deficit is not a decrease, but increase in the deficit:

"They got the headlines they wanted --  "House Democrats Trim $100B From Health Bill," The Washington Post wrote - but sources on Capitol Hill and outside of government say the changes to the public plan  could actually increase the cost of the bill anywhere between $60 billion and $100 billion, wiping out all or most of the ostensible savings....

Politico, meanwhile, reported on Wednesday night that the savings lost by switching to the Blue Dog public plan would be $60 billion.

On the far end of cost-savings analysis is a June 2009 report issued by the Common Wealth Fund, a private foundation that conducts health care analysis and promotes a better performing health care system. Titled "Fork In The Road," the report concluded that a public option paying providers Medicare rates (which are lower than any proposal put forward to date)  would produce savings for the government of roughly $3 trillion. A public plan that provided rates somewhere between Medicare and private plan rates (where the Blue Dog approach would likely be) would yield only $2 trillion in savings."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/30 /blue-dog-compromise-remov_n_247664.html

c) Reality check about why they stalled:

"The Blue Dog Political Action Committee has collected $1.1 million for the 2010 election cycle, more than any other leadership political action committee on Capitol Hill, according to CQ MoneyLine.

The total includes about $300,000 from health care interests, including $158,000 from doctors and other provider groups; $87,000 from makers of drugs and medical devices; and $50,000 from health insurance interests.

For the comparable period in the 2008 cycle, the PAC collected slightly less overall: $875,000, including $218,000 from health care political action committees.

Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, co?chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and other liberal lawmakers have criticized Blue Dogs for not backing a top priority for Obama.

"Whose interest do the Blue Dogs serve if they vote no?" Grijalva said. "They should check with uninsured families and other interests that go beyond K Street."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/us/pol itics/22health.html?_r=2&emc=tnt& ;tntemail0=y

You can persist in believing what they tell you, but the public record demonstrates the truth beneath the headlines.

by bruh3 2009-08-01 08:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Blue Dog Capitulation & Th

Oh, and as for the voters:

a) Most support the public option, including in their districts because a majority of Republicans support the public option. This is not surprising to me since anecdotally I know several conservative, but no wealthy Republicans who also support it.

b) Polling has been done that indicates the public is fine with President Obama and progressive Democrats approach when the approach is explained rather than they are lied to about what the plan is. So, when you say some of their district, I can only assume you mean the 25 percent of the population that is crazy wingnut conservative rather than the super majority that supports reform.

by bruh3 2009-08-01 08:42PM | 0 recs
David Waldman/Kagro X

wrote that Blue Dogs asked for insurers to be able to continue rejecting coverage for pre-existing conditions for another four years, which obviously goes totally against public opinion. They are barely even pretending to represent "folks back home."

by desmoinesdem 2009-08-02 04:26PM | 0 recs
Re: David Waldman/Kagro X

Yet people like Lori buy into the blue dog narrative.

by bruh3 2009-08-02 05:32PM | 0 recs
House Blue Dogs Blinked

Energy and Commerce released their version of HR3200 and they seem to have conceded everything of real importance. I am still waiting to see where the $100 in savings comes in, but where it didn't come from was screwing around with the subsidy levels which still phase out at 400% of the Federal Poverty Level with a premium cap at that level of 11% of income.
http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_11 1/20090714/aahca.pdf
Nor is there a change in the rating rules (Sec 113 starting pg. 21) the ratio of premiums by age is still set at a max of 2 to 1 (insurance companies are pushing for 5-7.5 to 1 for old vs young). Plus the income tax surcharge survived at $350,000 level.

So unless Senate HELP simply gives up (and Kennedy shows no signs that he wants his epitath to read 'Caved to Mike Enzi') I see a final compromise looking much like Kennedy/Dodd which is pretty close to the House version anyway.

If Waxman had caved it would be one thing, but near as I can see he threw the Blue Dogs a bone and passed the Tri-Committee bill pretty much as is.

by Bruce Webb 2009-08-03 04:02PM | 0 recs
Or I did

The version of the bill on the Energy and Commerce website is NOT the one marked up last Friday, even though the layout of the page would indicate that it was. And I can't find a summary of the actual changes agreed to anywhere. Meaning we don't yet know whether the Dogs did any major harm or not.

by Bruce Webb 2009-08-04 09:42AM | 0 recs
when does guaranteed issue

that is, banning insurers from refusing to cover for pre-existing conditions, go into effect in the latest version?

An informed person assured me a couple of weeks ago that guaranteed issue and banning rescissions were going to go into effect quickly, and only the public option would be delayed until 2013. But David Waldman says rescission will be banned as of 2010 and guaranteed issue won't go into effect until 2013.

If Democrats think they can pass an expensive health care bill and survive the 2010 and 2012 election cycles with no public option and insurance companies still able to refuse to cover pre-existing conditions, we are really screwed.

Thanks for noting the 400 percent of poverty level income subsidy remains intact. That is important.

by desmoinesdem 2009-08-04 07:00PM | 0 recs
it's going to be close

I think it will be very close no matter what bill we get.  Now we can hold out for a better bill, but it will come down what's more important for the Blue Dogs:  Do they want to continue to have power in a Democratic Congress or a GOP Congress where there will be fewer of them.

And keep in mind, we only need about 25 of them, 30 at most.  I cautiously optimistic that the House will pass a slightly better bill, but I'm not holding my breath.  I think a lot progressives will swallow hard and cave just to get a bill passed.

by esconded 2009-08-01 08:42PM | 0 recs
Re: it's going to be close

a) Not all blue dogs are against the bill. I believe 20 of them are aboard already if I am not mistaken.

b) I don't understand this part of what you say:

"Do they want to continue to have power in a Democratic Congress or a GOP Congress where there will be fewer of them."

They will thin their own numbers under that scenario because they are the most vulnerable. Indeed, they are vulnerable here not for being "too liberal" but for being "too conservative" and I put that in quotes because of what I say above about their opposition not coming out of substantive discussions over costs.

by bruh3 2009-08-01 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: it's going to be close

Follow up: The thesis of my diary is that they do not have to do what you describea t the end because of who holds the cards here. The Blue Dogs are more desperate , despite their barking, than the Progressives. If progressives would simply realize that fact, it would mean a lot toward their ability to win this.

by bruh3 2009-08-01 08:58PM | 0 recs

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