WASHINGTON -- President Obama is portraying his campaign to enact a government-run, nationalized healthcare plan as a titanic battle between him and the Republicans in Congress.
The White House, which has been thrown on the defensive in this fight, may think that's smart politics, but no one's really buying it -- except the news media. The biggest obstacle to Obama's big-spending, tax-heavy plan to create one of the largest entitlement programs in American history is not the powerless GOP minority who has had little or no strategic role in the emerging legislation. It's the Democrats themselves.
In the House, many of the 52-member, moderate Blue Dog Democrats were threatening to block the pending bill. "I don't like the idea of raising taxes in the worst economic crisis since World War II," said Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, chief negotiator for the Blue Dogs. He warned his party last week that "there's no way they can pass the current bill on the House floor. Not even close."
In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said he could not vote for a bill financed by a tax on employee healthcare benefits, warning that his party could lose 10 to 15 Democrats if such a tax ended up in the bill.
It isn't getting reported on the nightly network news shows, but the radical Democratic House bill, with its soak-the-rich, 50 percent-plus income tax rates, stands no chance of passing the Senate, where 60 Democrats now rule the roost.
Democrats were spurning the costly, draconian healthcare-reform bill approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the Budget Committee chairman, turned thumbs down on the bill that the director of the Congressional Budget Office said would significantly boost healthcare costs, not reduce them.
It's not just Democratic members of Congress who are rebelling against the massive spending bills the president has spawned in his zeal to take over the nation's healthcare system in the middle of a severe recession. Key Democratic allies are advising their party to delay any action on bills that they fear would further weaken a shrinking economy struggling to regain its health.