Adam Schiff Betrays His Constituents [CORRECTED]

Adam Schiff used to claim that he favored health care reform. Now that he’s got a safe seat, he’s joined the Blue Dogs and is busy undermining the House leadership. Should I be surprised or disgusted?

See post above. Schiff did not sign the “Blue Dog” letter, and did sign a letter calling for the inclusion of a public option.

In 1998, Democrats scored a coup by persuading state Senator Adam Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, to run again incumbent Republican James Rogan in a hotly-contested Congressional race here in Los Angeles. At the time, it might have been the most expensive Congressional race in history. And it was bitter: I know, because I walked precincts for Schiff and maxed out to him in contributions. Given California’s strong blue trend, his seat is a safe one now.

And so Schiff seems to have decided that people like me who worked for him don’t matter. He signed onto a letter from the Blue Dog Coalition (of which he is member), warning that he could not sign onto to the health care reform package that the leadership is preparing:

The drive to remake the nation’s health care system suffered yet another setback in Congress on Thursday when a pivotal group of House Democrats demanded changes in legislation the leadership was drafting on a fast track.

The emerging bill “lacks a number of elements essential to preserving what works and fixing what is broken,” 40 members of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats wrote party leaders. To win their support, they said, any legislation would need to be much more aggressive in reining in the growth of health care as well as in addressing a disparity in Medicare payments they said adversely affects rural providers.

“I don’t think we have significant cost-containment mechanisms in the proposal yet,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. He said he favors provisions aimed at preventing overtreatment of patients and overpayments to doctors, hospitals and other providers.

What exactly this all means isn’t clear, especially since the Blue Dogs have so far refused to place the letter on their web site. One important cost containment provision would be a strong public plan; does Schiff oppose that, too? He worries about overpayments to doctros and patients — but apparently not to insurers, even those insurers have cooked the books to deprive doctors and patients of payments. It’s also not clear whether this is just a speed bump or a real setback.

Whatever the Blue Dogs have cooked up, it surely isn’t good: it is a typical conservative Democrat way of watering down legislation and preventing real reform. They usually oppose things like strong public plans or (heaven forbid!) single-payer — precisely the things that will save money — and then complain that the plan is too expensive.

Schiff seems to be out front and center on it. And unlike, say, Democrats from swing districts, Schiff is safely nestled in Los Angeles, Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena. Many of the people in his district could use a more efficient and affordable health care system. But he’s way past that now — that was for when he actually had to care about the people in his district. I hope he’s happy.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.