Sept. 3, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Ross Is Blue Dogs’ Bulldog

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Mike Ross has become the point man for the Blue Dogs — and a major thorn in the side of House Democratic leaders — as the health care reform debate intensifies.

He warned them.

Months ago, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), chairman of the Blue Dogs’ health care task force, told House leaders and chairmen they’d better include Blue Dogs in the writing of their health care bill. But that didn’t happen.

Now, Ross has become the rallying point for a massive revolt against the leadership health care plan and may be the biggest obstacle to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) oft-stated desire to pass it by the August recess.

“I think the leadership has misread this one,” he said. “This is not a midnight surprise. We expressed our concerns three months ago.”

The five-term Member with the 1950s hair and deep voice never wanted to be in this position.

“One of the biggest reasons I ran for Congress was because I wanted to reform health care,” he said.

“My drive to want to fix health care and my passion on health care issues really goes back to owning a family pharmacy and seeing so many people on a fixed income or little to no income,” Ross said. “I’d see so many of them that couldn’t afford to take it properly and as a result would wind up 16 miles down the road at the hospital in Hope.”

Yes, that Hope — the birthplace of Bill Clinton.

Ross got his start in politics driving Clinton as he sought to win back the governorship he lost after one term in 1980, when folks thought he had gotten too big for his britches.

“I was 20 and he must have been 34 and already an ex-governor, and I ended up as his driver,” Ross said. “It was Bill Clinton and me in a Chevy Citation, a one-car motorcade traveling the back roads of Arkansas asking people to give him a second chance.”

Ross said the experience helped inspire him to go into public service. “He taught me how politics can still be good, can still be noble and people can run for the right reasons,” he said.

Ross won election to the state Senate at age 29, then won a hard-fought campaign against a four-term Republican appropriator to win his House seat a decade later, in 2000.

Ross, who hails from Prescott, a two-stoplight town of 3,000, said the health care system is failing.

“We lost the county-owned hospital in my home county in 1995, the hospital my mom worked at as a nurse for much of her life,” Ross said. “So we don’t even have a hospital. And 20 years ago we had six doctors [in town]. Today we have three, two of whom are well over retirement age, with no prospect for new doctors moving in and locating there.

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