House healthcare talks break down in anger

House healthcare negotiations dissolved in acrimony on Friday, with Blue Dog Democrats saying they were “lied” to by their Democratic leaders.

In advance of a subsequent press conference called by House leadership, Blue Dog liaison Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) said the healthcare bill should be staying in committee.

"I expect the committee process to proceed," Cardoza said.

The seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee stormed out of a Friday meeting with their committee chairman, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), saying Waxman had been negotiating in bad faith over a number of provisions Blue Dogs demanded be changed in the stalled healthcare bill.

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“I’ve been lied to,” Blue Dog Coalition Co-Chairman Charlie Melancon (D-La.) said on Friday. “We have not had legitimate negotiations.

“Mr. Waxman has decided to sever discussions with the Blue Dogs who are trying to make this bill work for America,” Melancon said.

Although those Blue Dogs were supposed to be headed back into another meeting of the Energy and Commerce Democrats, their anger was visible.

If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the only hope for passage of the bill in the House will be to go straight to the floor, an option leaders shied away from endorsing but said was an option.

But the Blue Dogs issued dire warnings to leaders contemplating that approach.

"Waxman simply does not have votes in committee and process should not be bypassed to bring the bill straight to floor,” Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the lead Blue Dog negotiator, said on Friday. “We are trying to save this bill and trying to save this party.”

Melancon said there would be 40-45 “solid no” votes from the 52-strong Blue Dogs, among other problems throughout the caucus. And Melancon said there are more Democrats who will vote against the bill.

“If they try to bring it to the floor, I think they’ll find out they have more problems than the Blue Dogs.”

A leadership aide said no decisions have been made on how to proceed.

This story was updated at 4:20 p.m.