Pelosi Says House Could Pass Reform Bill; Some Question Her Comments
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she has the votes to pass the chamber's health reform bill (HR 3200) on the floor, despite its failure thus far to pass the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Politico reports (O'Connor, Politico, 7/22).
She admitted that the process has been slowed in response to concerns among conservative Democrats, such as the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, and because other Democrats were reluctant to accept a surtax on high-income U.S. residents to fund reform without knowing whether the Senate would approve such a measure.
However, Pelosi said, "I have no question that we have the votes on the floor of the House to pass this legislation." She added, "We're waiting to see what the Senate will do" and "hoping that in the next day or so that we will see."
Pelosi said that the House was "on course" and that the "American people have waited long enough" for reform (Herszenhorn/Pear, New York Times, 7/23).
According to The Hill, her comments suggest the House might alter its bill to more closely resemble the Senate bill (Soraghan, The Hill, 7/22).
Pelosi Comments Draw Criticism
Pelosi's comments drew criticism from some House Democrats, The Hill reports.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who has worked with the Blue Dogs currently blocking the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee, said, "I don't know who's doing her vote counting, but she doesn't have the votes" (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/22).
Stupak added that there are "divisions" among House Democrats, considering "different members, not just Blue Dogs, but other members" who have concerns about the bill (Hunt/House, CongressDaily, 7/22).
Another Democratic member said, "They're 100 votes away on a good day" (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/22).
Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), a Blue Dog, said that he has held many meetings on the reform bill, and "if that has been for naught until they counted votes, and just to occupy our time, I'm sorry." He added, "I thought we were legitimately having conversations about writing a good health care bill for America" (Espo, AP/Long Island Newsday, 7/23).
According to The Hill, Republicans mocked Pelosi's comments by sending out a list of 42 House Democrats who have said they oppose or have concerns about the bill. However, the list includes some members, such as House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who likely will vote for the measure (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/22).
Energy and Commerce Markup Proceeds
On Tuesday and Thursday, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) delayed mark-up sessions to meet with Blue Dogs and address their concerns.
The Blue Dogs have seven members on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and they could prevent passage of the bill during a vote if they aligned with the Republicans on the panel, making their considerations a crucial aspect of reform discussions.
The Blue Dogs and Waxman already have reached a deal with President Obama to grant more authority to an independent panel for cutting health care costs under Medicare (Politico, 7/22).
According to CQ Today, the Blue Dogs also have discussed with Waxman the bill's proposal for a government-run public insurance plan, an exemption for small businesses from a mandate on employers to help pay for coverage, and the costs and offsets of the bill.
The Blue Dogs have argued that the public plan option should be triggered if only private insurers fail to cover more U.S. residents with more affordable plans (Armstrong, CQ Today, 7/22).
Blue Dog Reaction
Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the chair of the Blue Dog's Health Task Force, issued a statement that a deal regarding the coalition's other concerns for the legislation is still pending (New York Times, 7/23).
Melancon said, "If they're going to take [the mark-up] forward, I don't see any reason why we need to continue to meet." He said the only thing the coalition agreed to was "that nothing would be done [in House markup sessions] until everything was agreed on [by the Blue Dogs], and apparently that's not to the liking of some of the people in leadership" (Newmyer, Roll Call, 7/23).
CQ Politics reports that Waxman refused to comment on whether he was making progress with the Blue Dogs. He said only, "We're talking" (CQ Politics, 7/22).
Next Steps Not Discussed
According to aides to Democratic leaders, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have never discussed what to do if they do not reach a consensus on the bill by the August recess.
Pelosi said House members should work through the recess until Democrats, at least, can reach agreement on the bill. That statement contradicts Hoyer's comments on Tuesday that he did not see a point in working through the recess (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/22).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Wednesday reported on Blue Dog criticism of the House reform bill. The segment includes comments from Blue Dog member Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.