The House Committee on Energy and Commerce was supposed to be the third leg supporting health care reform legislation already approved by two other House committees. Instead, this week it's become more of a fifth wheel. The committee's markup sessions for Tuesday and Wednesday have been canceled in the face of opposition to the bill from the panel's conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats.
So Monday's markup may have lasted past midnight, but on Tuesday evening the committee's Blue Dogs were free to party, and party they did! Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) feted fellow Blue Dog Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Northwest Washington from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Ross is the lead Blue Dog on health care reform.
According to an invitation to the event obtained by the Sunlight Foundation and posted on its website, www.politicalpartytime.org, the price of admission was a $2,500 contribution to Barrow's campaign committee. Blue Dog Reps. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) were also on the invite.
To be fair, the invitation went out as early as July 10th, long before committee members were told to expect to work late on both Monday and Tuesday. Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) made his announcement that Tuesday's markup would be canceled after Monday's markup ended.
Ross' name has popped up on no fewer than three fundraiser invites on www.politicalpartytime.org in a 24-hour period, starting with a Nationals game on Monday evening and a lunch on Tuesday afternoon, which the Huffington Post visited. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, health industry professionals are the top givers to Ross' campaign committee so far in the current election cycle.
Event organizers declined to provide info about the guest lists for any of these events.
Committee Blue Dogs met with President Obama on Tuesday afternoon but reportedly did not reach an agreement.