Pelosi Steps Back From Pledge To Work Through August if Bill Not Passed
On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reversed her position that lawmakers should work into the August recess to vote on health reform legislation and said that Democrats leaving town would not necessarily give the bill's opponents more time to generate opposition, The Hill reports.
Pelosi said, "I'm not afraid of August," adding, "It's a month" (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/23).
However, she also said she expects House Democrats to find a compromise on the bill within "the next 48 hours," but she did not set a date for action by the full House (Armstrong et al., CQ Today, 7/23). She said the debate about whether House members should work past the expected July 31 adjournment is only "a very small conversation about whether we leave a few days sooner or later" (Newmyer, The Hill, 7/23).
Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) agreed with Pelosi that the House could act soon, saying the full chamber will consider the bill next week (Bolton, The Hill, 7/23).
House leaders have pledged to give lawmakers at least two days to read the final bill before it is considered on the chamber floor, which means legislation would have to be completed by Wednesday for the chamber to stick to its original goal of passing it before the recess (Soraghan, The Hill, 7/23).
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said the ongoing debate is the "longest" and "most contentious" of his tenure as whip and deserves to be given more time if necessary. He said, "If we leave here without doing this, nobody is going to interpret it as we're going home to listen [to constituents]. They'll say we went on vacation without having done it" (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/23).
He added, "I think it will affect our standing with the American people if we don't do this as a party" (O'Connor, Politico, 7/23).
Negotiations in the Energy and Commerce Committee
The House Energy and Commerce Committee markup has been delayed as lawmakers try to find a compromise with the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, whose members say the bill does not do enough to cut health care costs and places too heavy a burden on employers (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/23).
On Thursday, Pelosi met with Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, along with committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle.
After several hours, the lawmakers emerged without a resolution.
Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), chair of the Blue Dog Health Care Task Force, said, "We're still talking, and that's a good thing" (Dennis/Newmyer, Roll Call, 7/23).
Bypassing Energy and Commerce Committee Possible
Considering the delay caused by Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, some House Democrats indicated that they are discussing whether to bypass the committee altogether and proceed to a floor vote.
On Thursday, Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson (D-Conn.) said, "The preferable course would be to go through the committee." He added, "But, all options will be on the table" (Soraghan/Allen, The Hill, 7/23).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, "No decision to do that has been made, nor does anybody want to do that" (Hunt/House, CongressDaily, 7/24).
So far, markup of the bill in the Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled for Saturday, according to Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) (Allen, The Hill, 7/23).
Sources said plans to bypass the committee likely would be announced at the Democratic Caucus meeting scheduled for Monday (CongressDaily, 7/24).
Pelosi Wants More From Industry
On Thursday, Pelosi said that the House is not bound by the $235 billion in deals that the White House and Senate Finance Committee has made with the hospital and pharmaceutical industries to reduce costs and that the industry could do more.She said, "When we're trying to cut costs, certainly we know that there are more costs to be cut in hospitals and pharmaceuticals. ... So we'll be subjecting everything to some very harsh scrutiny as we see whether we can get more savings" (Romano, Washington Post, 7/24). 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.