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Maxine Waters targets Blue Dog Dems as tempers roil over healthcare

July 29, 2009 |  8:38 am

California Democrat Maxine Waters has never been known as the shy, quiet type.

Over the years, the congresswoman has charged the CIA with importing crack cocaine into South-Central Los Angeles, assailed independent counsel Kenneth Starr for ‘‘raw, unmasked, unbridled hatred and meanness that drives this impeachment coup d'etat'' against then-President Clinton, and co-sponsored a resolution to impeach then-Vice President Cheney for lying to Congress about the Iraq War.

So it will come as no surprise to those who appreciate Waters' firebrand personality that she is now targeting those who would stand in the way of President Obama's healthcare reform. Blasting the seven fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats who are stalling the reform in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waters charged the politically moderate group with hypocrisy in protesting the bill's $1 billion price tag but lobbying for increased Medicare reimbursements for rural physicians.

"On the one hand they don’t want to spend money, but on the other hand they want to spend money when it benefits them or their district,” she said on MSNBC.

Asked if she would recruit more liberal candidates to run against the Blue Dogs, Waters said, “That’s normally not done.” But she added: “There may be people out there listening and observing all of this who may get motivated based on what they’re seeing and throw their hat into the ring.”

She also took aim at White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who chaired the Congressional Campaign Committee, for recruiting conservative candidates to run in swing districts. Though the election of Blue Dogs bolstered the Democrats' majority in the House, Waters faulted Emanuel, then a congressman from Illinois, for telling the centrists they could vote their conscience.

Now, she said, the White House is having trouble getting its healthcare plan passed in Congress and "the chickens are coming home to roost."

Waters is not the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus angry about the Blue Dogs. The caucus chairwoman, California's Barbara Lee, said last week,  “We don’t think any one group in our [Democratic] caucus ought to be able to derail this.”

-- Johanna Neuman

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