A leader of the fiscally conservative group of representatives said he expects any vote on the House's health proposal would have to wait, likely until after Labor Day. "I think the American people want to take a closer look at this legislation. They want to feel more comfortable with it," Rep. Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog from Tennessee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Blue Dogs have emerged as pivotal players in the national health-care debate, a swing group that the White House is wooing more intensely to keep its initiative on track. The group, which accounts for about one-fifth of House Democrats, wants to make sure the health-care plan isn't too expensive for small businesses and hopes to keep the government's costs down. They don't want private health insurers to compete with a federally funded plan, and seek to reduce the share of lower-income Americans who would receive health-care subsidies.
Following a week in which the Blue Dogs challenged several key planks of the Democratic plan, most lawmakers agree a delay in the House legislation is likely. The House is set to adjourn next week, and unless lawmakers decide to stay in Washington for a few extra days, a decision would be put off until after Labor Day.
The Blue Dogs' clout arises from simple math -- they account for 52 seats in the House, enough to topple any law in cooperation with Republicans -- and some irony. Hungry to retake Congress, Democrats actively recruited moderate candidates in conservative districts. The strategy was strikingly successful in recapturing the majority. But now the Democrats are learning the price as they try to enact their agenda.