Before he became White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel was one of
the architects of the Democratic takeover of Congress largely by
finding conservative leaning Democrats to run in districts that
formerly voted for George Bush. These “Blue Dogs” were elected because
of their appeal as fiscal and social conservatives, and pro-life
Democrats.

After the election, they weren’t heard from for a while. We’re hearing from them now.

Fiscally conservative House Democrats have thrust
themselves into the middle of the health care debate this week,
blocking legislation drafted by their own party’s leadership.

If the 52 members of the Blue Dog Coalition remain united against
the bill, they could bar its passage in the House Energy and Commerce
Committee and later in the full House.

Objections by Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana and other Blue Dogs on the
committee to the cost and other aspects of the health care bill
prompted committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., on Tuesday to delay
discussing and amending the legislation for at least a day.

Also Tuesday, President Barack Obama met with all Democratic members of the committee, eight of whom are Blue Dogs.

They pose a formidable obstacle to his plan, and he hasn’t encountered this yet in his own party.

For seven months, Democratic leaders have managed their
fractious members with some success, pushing through such items as a
$787 billion economic stimulus. As recently as June 26, the House
approved a sweeping climate-change bill.

The health standoff is the most dramatic show of force so far by
Democratic moderates. On the climate bill, Democratic leaders picked
off opponents by making individual promises. The Blue Dogs, a group of
fiscally conservative Democrats, are determined to stick together this
time.

There are 51 Blue Dogs in the full House, [Rep. Mike] Ross pointed
out, more than enough to kill the health bill if they join the
Republicans.

They want the debate the people who elected them want. At least some members of Congress still have considerable integrity.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....