House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) convened an emergency meeting of the Democrats on his panel Friday afternoon to try to revive the health care reform bill after his talks with conservative Blue Dog Democrats broke down.
A visibly angry Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dog health care task force chairman, said Waxman reneged on deals the two sides had previously agreed on: a powerful independent Medicare commission proposed by President Barack Obama that would control costs, and adopting Senate language on a public insurance option that would require negotiated rates with providers rather than rates based on Medicare.
It pretty much fell apart this afternoon, Ross said, adding that there were eight other concerns on the Blue Dog list that had yet to be addressed as well.
Ross also said Waxmans threats to bring the bill straight to the floor and bypass a markup in Energy and Commerce were not helpful.
We are actually trying to save the bill, and we are trying to save our party, Ross said after the earlier Friday meeting between Blue Dogs and Waxman ended. He said then that he didnt believe the two sides would meet again.
Its my understanding that will be the last meeting we have, Ross said.
But Waxman said afterward that he still hopes to reach a deal and decided to hold an emergency meeting of the Energy and Commerce Committees Democrats.
As far as Im concerned, I want to continue talking and see if we can bring all the Democrats together, Waxman said before he headed to the meeting. Well do our best.
Still, Waxman reiterated his threat to take the bill straight to the floor if the Blue Dog Democrats continue their threats to vote for Republican amendments.
Waxman also said that he still supports the independent commission idea, although he said that others in the Caucus feel like its not needed because a new plan has been developed to address Medicare costs. Waxman also said that with a new breakthrough reached with other Democrats on addressing regional disparities, it would be a problem to not tie the public insurance option in the plan to Medicare rates.
Waxman said that while he and Ross had been working on another way to deal with that issue, he told Ross, I couldnt imagine selling it to the Democrats now that there has been this breakthrough.
Waxman said his panel needs to resume its markup next week or acknowledge that the Democrats dont control the committee anymore. He said Blue Dogs expressed some buyers remorse about the Medicare advisory commission after health care providers protested. But Im happy to stick with it, he said.
The chairman called Ross comments unfortunate but said he wants to continue negotiations if possible.
Ross later said after a Blue Dog meeting in House Majority Leader Steny Hoyers (D-Md.) office that he hopes negotiations continue.
You never say never, he said of prospects for reaching a deal before heading to the Democratic committee meeting. We still want to be a constructive part of this process.
But Ross reiterated the Blue Dogs threat to oppose the current bill and said they would try to block a rule on the floor if leadership tries to bypass Energy and Commerce.
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