Politico’s Mike Soraghan reports:
Democratic leadership staffers scolded freshman chiefs of staff Monday for blindsiding House leaders with a letter protesting the tax on the wealthy designed to pay for President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
“They said that letters like this don’t help anybody,” said a freshman Democratic aide. [Pols emphasis]
A bare majority of the Democratic freshman class, 21 of 39, signed the letter circulated by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) opposing their leadership’s plan to raise taxes to finance a healthcare overhaul. Another signer, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), is a second-term lawmaker.
It became one of the starkest signs of Democratic revolt against a healthcare bill that Pelosi had rolled out triumphantly days before…
But staffers for freshmen said they did give leaders a heads-up about their concerns and the letter. And they say freshmen want the bill to slow down.
And the Denver Post reports:
Polis led a mini-revolt of House freshmen last week against the surtax, circulating a letter that gained 21 Democratic signatures and claiming that it would take a heavy toll on small-business owners, many of whom don’t file as corporations.
Taken together with similar complaints by conservative Democrats, the revolt shook House leaders and produced a quick pivot by Pelosi, who said in a weekend interview that she would be open to a higher threshold – a tax on families making at least $1 million.
President Barack Obama called the doubting freshmen to the White House to hear their concerns on Friday, and Polis is set to meet with Sebelius today.
“What many Democrats criticized the Republicans for when they were in charge was that it was a rubber-stamp Congress,” Polis said Monday. “For health care reform to be a good issue for the Democratic Party, we need to succeed in reform that not only covers the 48 million uninsured but is also good for the economy.”
At the same time, Polis has come under attack by the Democratic left – a lesson on the complex politics of health care reform and the nervousness of grassroots groups who fear that the reform effort may collapse the way it did under President Bill Clinton. [Pols emphasis]
Apropos, the Washington Post reports:
Emboldened by divided Democrats and polls that show rising public anxiety about President Obama’s handling of health care and the economy, Republicans on Monday launched an aggressive effort to link the two, comparing the health-care bills moving through Congress to what they labeled as a failed economic stimulus bill…
Lacking unity on an alternative agenda to Obama’s health-care plans, Republicans have instead focused on a strategy of rallying public opposition and wooing the conservative Democrats in Congress, whose votes will ultimately determine the fate of any health-care bill. That plan depends in large part on Congress going on break before it votes on a bill. On Monday, though, Republicans made clear that they see an opportunity to derail the legislation now. [Pols emphasis]
As we’ve said, the peril this situation creates for health care reform doesn’t really have to do with the nature of Polis’ objection, which could have been dealt with in a less-visible way–any way that didn’t lead with the words “revolt” or “votes no.” The issue is precisely the high visibility of Polis’ opposition to the bill as introduced, and the secondary effect of that opposition as the story is retold–the wide-open opportunity this gives Republican opponents of the bill to attack it.
The conversation has not been about any alternatives Polis has proposed, just his problems with the current bill–because that’s what Polis wanted to talk about. And it’s far more damaging to the effort to pass a bill for Polis to do this than the Blue Dogs, since he’s not supposed to be one. In the end it doesn’t really matter if you call Polis’ office and are told that he really supports, golly gee, much more expensive pie-in-sky health care–on CNN the story is how the current proposal is “unfair” and “too expensive,” and a “liberal Democrat” named Jared Polis is their poster boy.
Depending on what happens next, Polis’ hamfisted ‘contribution’ to the debate could do more to scuttle health care reform this year than any Republican–a truly astonishing turn of events. Or, and this would be the thing to really give Polis’ liberal base in CD-2 pause, maybe it isn’t so astonishing.
One more word on the demographics of CD-2: The Wall Street Journal and other out-of-state news sources have been quick to describe CD-2 as Polis’ “wealthy Democratic district,” focusing on the affluence of communities like Boulder and Vail: presumably an attempt to show sympathy for Polis’ position on the bill among his electorate. After all, if Polis was elected by rich folks who would “unfairly” suffer from higher taxes–as opposed to working people with the most to benefit–well, he’d be representing his district, wouldn’t he?
But aren’t the biggest cities in CD-2 the blue-collar suburbs of Thornton and Northglenn?