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Health Reform Gets New Push

Meanwhile, other Democrats, including Reps. Neil Abercrombie (Hawaii) and Jim Costa (Calif.), are pushing alternative energy legislation that ditches the cap-and-trade concept entirely.

However, Democratic leadership aides maintain their optimism that the legislation will come to the floor before the August recess.

“I doubt Rangel and Peterson will stand in the way of the Speaker’s flagship issue if she is ready to move it,” one aide said. “If the White House and Speaker really focus on it, it will move in some way, shape or form.”

Tony Kreindler, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund, said Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) forged what should be a durable compromise by bringing together the very diverse members of the committee.

“At every turn the conventional wisdom has been wrong,” Kreindler said. “People were not paying attention to the real work happening at the committee level ... They got a lot of votes that people were not expecting to get.”

Kreindler noted that while Obama is taking a higher-profile role in health care, his leadership on the energy package has already been substantial, including bringing Energy and Commerce Democrats to the White House last month.

“That’s not to say we’re not going to need ongoing presidential leadership here, particularly in the Senate,” he said.

Another House Democratic leadership aide said that having health care reform, climate change and the Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court nomination all in the mix this summer helps the prospects for all three issues because there are too many targets for Republicans to focus on any one of them.

“It has the effect of totally spreading the field, and it doesn’t allow the opposition to focus all of their resources and money on a particular thing to defeat,” the Democratic aide said.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.

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