Congressman: Centrist Dems talking healthcare coalition with GOP

Some centrist House Democrats have reached out to Republicans to explore breaking with their party leadership on healthcare and crafting a reform bill with the rival GOP, one congressman claimed Saturday.

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) asserted that an "interesting development" is taking place underway that, if true, could effectively remove Democratic leadership from the driver's seat on healthcare reform legislation in the House.

"There's an interesting development occurring behind the scenes, wherein moderate Democrats -- so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats -- and business-friendly new Democrats are actually starting to have conversations with us to build a coalition from the center outward, to actually really come up with substantive and well-founded healthcare reform," Boustany said during an appearance on Fox News. "And that's the only way to do this."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders have moved quickly to pass a preliminary version of healthcare legislation before the August recess in Congress.

The House Ways and Means Committee as well as the Education and Labor Committee approved marked-up versions of legislation, which would create a public (or "government-run") option for consumers as well as impose a surtax on high earners, on Friday after the bill was unveiled on Monday.

Those committee votes, though, saw some centrists break with their chairmen to vote against the proposal. (The Democratic National Committee announced Saturday that it would ramp up the pressure on some of those centrists by running advertisements in their districts.)

"We think that if we can build enough public opinion on this, we'll force the issue," Boustany said. "Because the American public wants healthcare reform. Republicans agree it needs to be done, but it has to be done carefully, and in a prudent way that doesn't disrupt the whole system."

Update, Sunday, July 19: Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a leading member of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats, said Republicans counting on Blue Dogs to help block healthcare reform will be "sorely disappointed."

Watch a video of the interview below:

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