Waxman: Mastered the Art of the Deal

Posted November 12, 2009 at 10:29am

One of the chief architects of the House health care bill, Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has the policy chops to go toe to toe with anyone on the particulars of the overhaul and will play a key role in conference negotiations with the Senate.

Waxman secured the Energy and Commerce chairmanship by defeating Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) last year, but the two have worked well together on a cause that has been at the center of Dingell’s long career. Waxman has emerged in public as the patient explainer-in-chief on the House bill particulars, and in private he is a tough but pragmatic negotiator, albeit in a secondary role to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Waxman engineered an early breakthrough in the House health care debate by negotiating a deal to get the bill out of his committee. The California Democrat was able to cut a deal with four fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats on his panel on a bill that included negotiated rates for the public insurance option and bigger breaks for small businesses, key wants of Blue Dogs. Those provisions ultimately made it into the bill that passed the floor, but Waxman, along with other Democrats backing abortion rights, was unable to figure out a way to reach a compromise with anti-abortion-rights Members on the issue.

Anti-abortion-rights Members successfully amended the final House bill to prevent beneficiaries of federal health care funds from buying insurance covering the procedure.