Waxman Prepared to Bypass His Own Committee for Sake of Health Care Bill

Personal Health

Faced with continued opposition from conservative Democrats on his House Committee on Energy and Commerce, committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., today threatened to take his own committee out of the process of crafting a final health care reform bill for a vote in the House of Representatives, angering members of the Blue Dog (Democratic) Coalition.  A week after two other House committees passed the bill that Waxman had negotiated with Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Ways and Means committee, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the Education and Labor committee, the Blue Dogs continued to hold up passage of a bill in Energy and Commerce, citing 10 provisions with which they took issue.


Earlier this week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered a concession by suggesting that a proposed surtax on wealthy wage-earners could be limited to people earning far more than the levels cited in the bill.  (Pelosi proposed that the surtax could be applied only to individuals earning more than $500,000 per year, and couples earning more than $1 million.) That wasn't enough to placate the Blue Dogs, who sought concessions on Medicare reimbursements for rural doctors, as well as other provisions in the bill.

So Waxman threatened to take his committee out of the bill-crafting process altogether, so that the House could move forward to vote on the bill as already passed in the other two committees.

It's a brilliant tactical move, and one that few committee chairmen would dare to take -- to win by  threatenting to render one's own committee irrelevant to the process.  But Waxman clearly saw the Blue Dogs as being in league with Republicans who are looking to scuttle health care reform altogether. "I won't allow them to hand over control of our committee to Republicans," Waxman said, according to "I don’t see what other alternative we have, because we're not going to let them empower Republicans on the committee."

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