Democratic Agenda Likely Would Not Include Universal Coverage
House Democratic leaders likely will have to "temper their liberal ambitions" on health care and other issues in the event that they take control of the chamber after the midterm elections because a "new Democratic majority ... will consist of a fresh crop of moderate and conservative members whose elections will have been won in part by distancing themselves from the party's progressive wing," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/29).
In the event that Democrats take control of the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will seek to "move the items on her agenda early, before both parties dig in for the 2008 presidential race," CQ Today reports (Ota, CQ Today, 10/27). As part of her agenda, Pelosi will seek to pass legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications, as well as a number of other bills, within the first 100 hours after the House convenes (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/29).
Pelosi also will seek to pass legislation to remove restrictions that President Bush has placed on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, 10/30). However, her agenda does not include "broader liberal goals such as universal health care," the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/29).
Pelosi adviser and former Rep. Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.) said, "She has wisely decided to focus on deliverable legislation" (CQ Today, 10/27). According to the Miami Herald, efforts by House Democrats to "try to dismantle the Medicare drug program" would prompt "strong opposition from Republicans, the drug and insurance industries, and probably many seniors now enjoying the subsidy of their drug costs" (Talev/Hall, Miami Herald, 10/29).
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, said that as committee chair he would increase oversight of prescription drug and gasoline prices. According to the Journal, Waxman "stressed that he has no 'agenda' in place to guide his first months as chairman of the committee, no investigations teed up and that he saw subpoenas as a 'last resort' for compelling information that he hoped could be obtained through less combative methods."
Waxman in the past has said that he opposes the so-called "doughnut hole" in the Medicare prescription drug benefit and supports legislation to allow the program to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications (Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, 10/28).
Wall Street Journal: "A Democratic triumph would produce a major shift in the national policy debate, and we can understand why Ms. Pelosi isn't plastering most of this agenda" -- which includes legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on medications -- "on billboards around the country," a Journal editorial states. The legislation is "a euphemism for imposing price controls on new medicines, which can take as much as $800 million in research and development to bring to market," the editorial states. In addition, some Democrats "want to direct all seniors into a single government-run Medicare drug plan," as well as pass a bill to "make all Americans, of any age, eligible for Medicare and pay for it with a new 1.7% payroll tax on workers and 7% on employers," according to the editorial (Wall Street Journal, 10/28).
- Washington Post: The agenda from House Democratic leaders "is heavy on ideas -- raising the minimum wage, letting the government negotiate Medicare drug prices -- that may have more popular appeal than real-world impact," a Post editorial states. The agenda is "weakest in what it doesn't say about how to tackle the looming surge in entitlement spending," the editorial states, adding that Democrats "are silent about what, precisely, they would do to put Social Security and, even more important, Medicare on a sustainable and affordable course" (Washington Post, 10/29).