Energy and Commerce Blue Dogs Make Deal With House Leaders, Liberal Members Rebel
Roll Call: "House leaders who have struggled for weeks to bring fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats on board announced a deal paving the way to get the bill through the Energy and Commerce Committee, but not to the floor, before the August break. But the agreement ran into a firestorm of resistance from liberal Members, forcing Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to postpone plans for a markup Wednesday afternoon.
Waxman later reached an agreement with members of his committee and announced he would go ahead with the markup Thursday morning" (Dennis and Drucker, 7/29).
"Blue Dogs and House leaders have struck a deal to guarantee that the House will not vote on a healthcare bill before August, a leading Blue Dog said on Wednesday,"
The Hill reports that in exchange for delaying the vote until Congress reconvenes in September, the Blue Dogs a group of fiscally conservative Democrats will allow markup of a bill to continue in the Energy and Commerce Committee, the last of three committees to process the draft. Seven Blue Dogs in that committee have been stalling the bill, four of whom negotiated the agreement. This accord doesn't mean the Blue Dogs and liberal Democrats have met on the substance of the bill (Allen, 7/29).
The Associated Press: "The leader of the conservative to moderate Blue Dogs, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., said the deal included:
* Exempting businesses with payrolls of $500,000 or below from a requirement to provide insurance to employees or pay a penalty. The existing bill had set the level at $250,000.
* The penalty would hit businesses with payrolls between $500,000 and $750,000 on a sliding scale before kicking in fully at 8 percent of payroll.
* Poor people would get subsidies to help them buy care after spending 12 percent of their income on premiums, instead of 11 percent in the existing bill.
* Payment rates to doctors and other medical providers would be negotiated with the secretary of Health and Human Services, instead of tied to Medicare rates as the bill now says. The Blue Dogs contend that change will lead to fairer payment rates.
* In addition to the public plan, states will have the option of setting up health care co-ops. Details on that were still being worked out.
* Instead of the federal government picking up the full cost of an expansion of Medicaid, states would pick up part of the costs.
Ross said that together the changes would make the bill about $100 billion cheaper of the $1.5 trillion price tag, though the Congressional Budget Office had yet to weigh in with its analysis of the cost" (Werner, 7/29).
CQ Politics: "The four Blue Dogs who struck the deal with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry A. Waxman , D-Calif., were Ross, Zach Space, D-Ohio, Bart Gordon , D-Tenn., and Baron P. Hill , D-Ind. Rep. Tammy Baldwin , a liberal on the committee, said she and other liberals have not signed off on the revisions yet. 'The problem is the rest of the committee hasn't yet had a chance to study it,' she said. 'Hopefully we'll be quick studies.'" (7/29)
Congress Daily reports on the liberal backlash: "'There's angst; there's questions; there's some anger,' Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.... 'The question is, have we given up too much for the goals that we need?' he said of the agreement. 'I don't want to see the insurance companies subsidized by middle-income taxpayers.' A consistent sticking point with Engel and other liberal Democrats are changes made to the public option. The Blue Dog agreement includes Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee language that requires the HHS secretary to negotiate public plan payment rates directly with providers" (Hunt, 7/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.