House energy and commerce Democrats vote for public plan, Republicans balk

"The House Energy and Commerce Committee resumed work Thursday on major health care legislation, voting to establish a government-run health insurance plan, as top Republicans stepped up their criticism of the ambitious legislation,"  The New York Times reports.

In the meantime, Democrats are continuing to wrangle with discontent from liberals over their compromise with the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats.

"The liberal lawmakers voiced concern that the agreement would reduce federal subsidies intended to help people with low or moderate incomes buy insurance. In addition, they contended that the deal would weaken the proposed new government health insurance plan, which would compete with private insurers. Moreover, the liberals also expressed a political concern, saying House leaders had compromised too early" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 7/30).

The Los Angeles Times: "On Thursday, 57 of these liberals sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) warning that they would vote against any bill that contained the terms of the [Blue Dog] deal. … Ever since the Democrats won congressional majorities in 2006, party leaders have struggled to balance the demands of their liberal and more conservative members. And although the leadership has more than a month to rally enough votes to pass healthcare bills when Congress returns in September, the latest unrest is raising a menacing specter for the president and his allies" (Levey and Oliphant, 7/31).

CongressDaily: "Progressives are discussing whether leadership could assuage some of their concerns when the Energy and Commerce bill is melded with companion measures from the Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees. If changes aren't made, House leaders expect a revolt from the Progressive Caucus" (Hunt, 7/31).

Kaiser Health News has a Q&A with Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., on reform and her expectations. She said the leadership's agreement with Blue Dogs "presents one more challenge to getting the bill passed in the best possible way we can. First of all, I'm glad [the Blue Dogs] are at the table, now. They had been negotiating, but now we were able to go ahead with the markup, which is a good thing'" (Pianin, 7/31).

"Fifty-three lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus, the Progressive Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key committee chairmen formally opposing the deal that House leaders struck with" the Blue Dogs, Fox News reports (Pergram, 7/30).

The New York Times in a second story details another group trying to make their voices heard: Freshman Democrats. "As the House prepared to leave town until after Labor Day, the health bill was taking on some of the ideological hue of House freshmen, many of whom represent districts in Southern and Western states that were previously out of reach of Democrats, far from the urban centers that have long been the party's base ... Working somewhat as a bloc, and also through other groups like the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs, the freshmen helped not only to postpone a floor vote but also to spur concessions on cost and regional disparities. In addition, in response to freshman demands, party leaders are talking about raising the threshold for any surtaxes that could hit small businesses" (Hulse, 7/30).

The committee is expected to finish the markup today, and The Associated Press reports: "With committee action completed majority Democrats will be able to return to their districts claiming momentum on health care - even though up until recently the goal was to have legislation all the way through the House by the recess" (Werner, 7/31).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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