Stupak Warns of Democratic Defections on Health Bill

Posted July 17, 2009 at 11:30am

Dissident House Democrats are threatening to block a health care bill if their leaders try to bypass the Energy and Commerce Committee, where odds of passing it appear dim without a major overhaul.The Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees passed the bill early Friday after epic markups, with Education and Labor pulling an all-nighter to finish the bill.Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), an Energy and Commerce member, said a vote by 39 Democrats on Thursday against the rule for debating the financial services appropriations bill — nearly enough to bring down that bill — should be a signal to leadership.“They can’t continue to ignore us,— Stupak said. “You are going to get more than 39 votes against your rule— if House leadership tries to jam the health care bill through, he said. “We’re not just going to roll over just because it has the name health care’ on it.—Democratic leaders could theoretically move the bill straight to the floor without going through the Energy and Commerce panel, just as they avoided markups in other committees on the cap-and-trade energy bill, Stupak said.Stupak, along with Blue Dog Democrats, opposes the bill in its current form, and they say they have the votes to kill it in committee or the floor, unless Republicans sign on to the package.Stupak said he has been taken “to the woodshed— by leadership but isn’t budging.Stupak’s concerns are varied, but they include his desire for a prohibition on federal funding for abortions as part of the public insurance option under consideration, as well as a demand for deeper cost cuts and dealing with regional disparities under Medicare.Fundamentally, the bill does not fix the broken health care system, he said.“Why would we give you more money for a system that’s broken?— he asked.Stupak also is upset about the creation of a new national health czar who would set the rules for health insurance plans.“Why does one person make the decisions in Washington, D.C.?— he asked. “What’s Congress’ role? … Just give us the money.’ We have no say in it.—Leaders are facing trouble on other fronts, as well. Led by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), 22 freshman Democrats on Friday sent Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a letter expressing strong objections to the surcharge tax on the wealthy that would raise $544 billion to pay for expanded coverage. The freshmen, who have huddled with Pelosi twice this week, argue the tax increase would hurt small businesses. And on top of their substantive concerns, the new lawmakers are worried they will have to take a tough vote on the tax only to see it significantly rejiggered in negotiations with the Senate.“We’re skeptical this will be the ultimate financing mechanism,— Polis said. “It’s probably a vote to no avail.—