House Democrats May Skip Committee Vote, Take Bill To Floor
"House Democrats spent another day Thursday negotiating their health reform overhaul with few concrete signs of progress, heightening tensions and raising the possibility that leaders might bypass the House Energy and Commerce Committee and send the bill straight to the floor," CongressDailyAM reports. "The seven Blue Dog Coalition members on the panel emerged from a three-hour meeting with leaders and White House officials Thursday afternoon with little to say" (Hunt and House, 7/24).
The Hill: "'The preferable course would be to go through the committee,' Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) said Thursday night. 'But all options will be on the table.' Larson's comments came as he and the rest of the Democratic leadership team emerged from a meeting where they hosted Ways and Means Committee and some Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats."
But bypassing Energy and Commerce, which is struggling to get Blue Dogs on board over regional Medicare reimbursement and cost concerns, may not fix House leadership's vote problem. "Hoyer for one has noted since last week that regional concerns about Medicare are not limited to the Blue Dog Coalition. At the same time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been adamant, even as recently as Thursday morning, that she has the votes to pass the bill on the floor" (Allen, 7/23).
Earlier Thursday, Pelosi said she would postpone the chamber's August recess if necessary to get reform moving, Roll Call reports. "Pelosi has strong backing from House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). ... He argued in the Thursday meeting that Democrats would get no credit for going home without making tough decisions on health care reform first" (Newmyer, 7/23).
Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus is criticizing the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs, Roll Call reports in a separate story: "Leaders of the 42-member CBC sent a letter Thursday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Barack Obama calling out 'some within the Democratic Caucus [who] have raised spurious claims' about the package's price tag." (Newmayer, 7/23).
Democrats' infighting has opened the door for the GOP, which is readying its health care plan alternative, The Hill reports in a separate story: "Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Thursday afternoon that Republicans will have an alternative healthcare reform bill to offer but did not say when it would be ready ... In mid-June, House Republicans unveiled a three-and-a-half page plan that Blunt said would be followed up with a comprehensive alternative bill the leadership would offer. Under their plan, there would be no public government-run option and individuals would be encouraged to take advantage of "incentives" that would make coverage more affordable. Also, they want to make sure that the millions of people who currently qualify for Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) take advantage of those options" (Hooper, 7/23).
As Republicans ready their bill, they are trying to avoid being painted as obstructionists, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Republicans, seeking to regain political ground in the health-care debate, have launched a series of attacks on Democrats' overhaul plan. But some GOP strategists worry an aggressive approach could backfire, if voters decide the party is obstructing efforts to address an issue they care about. "That is forcing Republicans to try to strike a tricky balance. Even as they hammer at President Barack Obama's plan, in a bid to reduce its size and delay its passage, they are trying to convince voters the GOP also wants to achieve changes that would reduce health costs and expand access to care. GOP support remains about where it was on Election Day last year, at about 35%. But many Republicans increasingly see an opportunity" (McKinnon, 7/24).