Blue Dogs Celebrate Health Care Deal, But Will It Blow Up in Their Faces?

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Blue Dog Democrats are howling in triumph today. They finally stuck together and backed down Nancy Pelosi on health care reform. Until now, they've been all bark and no bite on one expensive liberal initiative after another, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in a headline this week.

In that WSJ op-ed, Merrill Matthews of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance taunted the Blue Dogs, who include Tennessee's Jim Cooper, John Tanner, Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis.

"[D]o the Blue Dogs really belong in the fiscal conservative pack? They talk like fiscal conservatives but vote like liberal Democrats." He noted that only 10 of the 52 Blue Dogs opposed Obama's stimulus, 14 bucked his budget and 29 rejected the climate change bill.

Their derailing of the House health care reform bill is the first time this Congress they've managed to maintain unity: "It was time," a Blue Dog Democrat tells The Hill newspaper. "This was a bridge too far."

But beyond kudos in the media, what have they gained? Their agreement with Rep. Henry Waxman changes the way a government-run insurance plan would operate to make it less competitive with private insurers. Liberal House Democrats are denouncing the deal and staging a revolt.

"We have compromised and we can compromise no more," an angry Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., said at a raucous news conference outside the Capitol.

If health care reform collapses because of their kowtowing to the insurance industry, Tennessee's Democrats will have a little explaining to do back home.

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