Health care reform, the touchstone of President Obama’s legislative agenda, remains stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee due to disagreements between the Democratic leadership and a coalition of conservative Democrats, called the Blue Dogs Coalition.
But committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) intends to forge ahead with a markup session tomorrow afternoon.
A markup is where committees write the final version of legislation.
"I am hoping to have a markup in our committee tomorrow afternoon," Waxman said."
However, leading Blue Dog, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) thought that was wishful thinking by the chairman.
"No way. No way. They haven't even started yet," Melancon said.
Meantime, Blue Dog Coalition members continued slogging through a list of ten issues to resolve costs and address other concerns. However, Waxman underscored the importantance of what at least one Blue Dog described as a “breakthrough” yesterday: the creation of a non-partisan, independent advisory council called IMAC. Comprised of doctors and health experts, IMAC would monitor the costs of Medicare.
“The administration feels this is a game-changer that will hold down costs in the future,” said Waxman.
Waxman also says that he is rushing to get the Congressional Budget Office to evaluate the costs of new proposals to meet the Blue Dogs demands. But the California Democrat was reluctant to say the House could approve a new health care bill by the middle of next week.
“It’s something I would like to see happen. But it’s not in my control,” he said. “Members have to feel a certain comfort level with the legislation.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaled that the bill was ripe for passage.
“I have no question that we have the votes on the floor of the House to pass this legislation,” Pelosi said.
But Blue Dogs, like Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN) respectfully disagreed.
“The Speaker was well-intended. But I don’t think the votes are there now,” Hill said.