More and more House Democrats are pledging to oppose compromises on health care reform now being entertained by at least some aides to President Obama and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate.
"We have compromised and we can compromise no more," an angry Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-California, declared at news conference that felt more like a rally outside the Capitol.
Woolsey and her Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, have now attracted 60 signers for a letter condemning compromises that make the cure worse than the disease.
A deal between House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Henry Waxman and several members of the conservative "Blue Dog" caucus has been portrayed as "progress" toward reform by some top Democrats and much of the media. But without the votes of the 60 progressives who have signed a letter condemning the compromise, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is unlikely to be able to cobble together enough support to gain approval of the plan in House where Republicans continue to act as the party of "no."
Pelosi tried to downplay the revolt, saying, "We have tremendous diversity, whether it is generational, geographic, philosophical, ethnic, gender, you name it," she said. "It is a great kaleidoscope."
But the Obama administration was taking the latest development in the health care debate seriously. The president was calling liberal lawmakers Friday, and was expected to call more over the weekend, in order to ease tensions.
The progressives didn't create the crisis.
And they are certainly not acting as obstructionists in the manner that Republicans and Blue Dogs have.
Rather, they argue, the compromise between Waxman and the Blue Dogs is itself an obstruction to real reform.
The progressives say "the agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards." That's because it would, according to their savvy analysis, "reduce subsidies to low-and middle-income families, requiring them to pay a larger portion of their income for insurance premiums, and would impose an unfunded mandate on the states to pay for what were to have been Federal costs."
"In short," declares the letter that was circulated by Woolsey, Grijalva and a number of CPC members and allies, "this agreement will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and as taxpayers, paying ever higher rates to insurance companies."
The full letter, which has been sent to Pelosi, Waxman, Ways and Means Committee chair Charles Rangel, D-New York, and House Committee on Education and Labor chair George Miller, D-California, reads:
Dear Madam Speaker, Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, and Chairman Miller:
We write to voice our opposition to the negotiated health care reform agreement under consideration in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
We regard the agreement reached by Chairman Waxman and several Blue Dog members of the Committee as fundamentally unacceptable. This agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards. Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable. It would ensure higher costs for the public plan, and would do nothing to achieve the goal of"keeping insurance companies honest," and their rates down.
To offset the increased costs incurred by adopting the provisions advocated by the Blue Dog members of the Committee, the agreement would reduce subsidies to low-and middle-income families, requiring them to pay a larger portion of their income for insurance premiums, and would impose an unfunded mandate on the states to pay for what were to have been Federal costs.
In short, this agreement will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and as taxpayers, paying ever higher rates to insurance companies.
We simply cannot vote for such a proposal.
Woolsey and Grijalva had hoped to attract 50 signers for the letter.
They've now got 60 and that number is expected to grow as members feel pressure from constituents during the Aujust break.
In addition to Woolsey and Grijalva, signers of the letter include:
William Lacy Clay
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Sheila Jackson Lee
Fortney "Pete" Stark
Progressive Democrats of America, which has worked closely with CPC members, is pledging to organize during the congressional recess to get more Democratic members of the House and Senate to go on record against compromises that thwart reform.
This is essential work because, if the Blue Dogs and supposedly moderate (but, in fact, corporatist) New Democrats carry the day, Americans really could end up paying more money for less care.