Will Blue Dog Democrats Have the Last Say?

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," October 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: President Obama getting ready to speak out about winning a key vote in his pursuit of health care reform. As I`m sure you know by now, the Senate Finance Committee passing its health plan just a couple hours ago. He got one Republican backing it, Olympia Snowe of Maine.

He will no doubt be doing a little bit of bragging about that, as this now makes it way to merge with another bill in the Senate, then on to the Senate, then reconciling whatever comes out of the House. It`s a mess, but, eventually, they hope to have something on the big guy`s desk. We will see.

All right, in the meantime, the Senate vote is over, but health care battle in the House just beginning. Will the Blue Dogs Democrats have the final sway and say?

Pennsylvania Congressman Blue Dog Democrat Jason Altmire joining me right now.

Congressman, you guys seem to be like the Rodney Dangerfields in this process.


CAVUTO: No one respects you. No really cares what you think. And they seem to think — that is the Democratic leadership — they can go full-throttle without you. Is that about right?

REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, look, we have a bicameral system here. The House and the Senate are both going to have a voice.

It does seem like this bill has been negotiated between the White House and the Senate. But the House has to pass a bill for this to become law. I, as we have talked before, have been unhappy with the direction that the House has gone.

I do think that we have moved towards the center and we have a better product. We have to see what CBO says on whether or not I will be able to support it. But I think that we are moving in the right direction. And I see the Senate moving in the right direction.

CAVUTO: Well, Nancy Pelosi — you guys don`t like the public option. She does. She`s the boss. You`re not. She is not toast, but you are.

What do you make of that?

ALTMIRE: My concerns about the House bill dealt with the lack of cost containment, the income tax that I thought was misguided and misplaced, and the fact that small businesses were penalized for being unable to offer health care...

CAVUTO: Right.

ALTMIRE: ... being unable to afford it. I think we should use a carrot, and not a stick.

And I think, over the course of this year in the debate that has taken place, we have gotten better in all three of those things. The bill is not, I think, where it needs to be.


ALTMIRE: But, hopefully, when we merge the bill with the Senate- passed bill, we will end up in the center. And that's where the American people wants us to be.

CAVUTO: Maybe so. It doesn`t look that way now. But you could be right. You are closer to that.

So, let me ask, there are 52 of you are Blue Dogs.


CAVUTO: There were 28 at last count who were not keen on what was going on in the House. Is that count still accurate, Congressman?

ALTMIRE: I don`t know what the count out of 52 is, but I do know the magic number is 38. You can lose 38 Democrats to pass a bill. If you lose one more, you can`t do it.

And with 52 Blue Dogs, we are going to be the decisive factor in this whole thing.

CAVUTO: And 28 of you are not — yes, that is cutting it pretty close. That`s interesting.



And I can`t say what the number is going to be, but I know there`s a lot of different concerns with the bill.

CAVUTO: All right.

ALTMIRE: We will see if CBO scores it as a savings, and then we will take the vote.


Congressman, I admire your guts, because every time after talking to you, I always think, oh, the poor guy is going to have his parking spot taken or something like that. (LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But always great seeing you. Thank you very much.

ALTMIRE: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right.

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