Article: Progressives Slam Pelosi on Health Care Remark (CQ Politics)

Progressives Slam Pelosi on Health Care Remark

By Jonathan Allen | August 4, 2009 11:09 AM

The liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus swatted at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Tuesday over a perceived dismissiveness toward them on health care issues and renewed a threat to vote against the House bill if their concerns aren't addressed.

"We write to you in response to an article in the Washington Post 'Democrats Find Rallying Points on Health Reform, but Splinters Remain.' We are concerned with the statements made regarding the progressives," they wrote.

Pelosi, a one-time chairwoman of the progressive caucus, has angered her base not only by striking a deal with conservative Blue Dogs to dislodge the health care overhaul from the Energy and Commerce Committee but for her attitude toward their concerns.

The Post captured the dynamic.

    Despite threats from almost 60 progressive House Democrats -- who outnumber the Blue Dogs -- Pelosi defended the compromise, saying it was similar to one backed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Pelosi predicted that the liberal wing would fall in line because the legislation is so important to them.

    "Are you asking me, 'Are the progressives going to take down universal, quality, affordable health care for all Americans?' I don't think so," Pelosi told reporters Friday, breaking into laughter at the question.

The progressives say that the House "can and must do better" than even the Kennedy-backed bill in terms of fixing payment rates in a public option rather than allowing providers to negotiate levels with the government.

"We want to assure you that our continued support is contingent on a robust public plan, similar to what was reported out of the Committees on Ways and Means and Education and Labor. Those two committees outline a plan that brings down costs and improves quality, access, and competition," they wrote. "Furthermore, the subsidies included in these bills must be restored, because without these subsidies, health insurance access for many low- and middle-income families will be effectively cut off. The final bill brought to the House floor must include these provisions or we will oppose the bill."

California Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who co-chairs the caucus, told The Hill newspaper she was outraged at the thought of Pelosi laughing at the progressives.

It may be a while before we know who has the last laugh on the health care overhaul.