Hoyer says health reform on track

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says the lower chamber is moving ahead apace on legislation to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system.

After meeting Wednesday with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) and other key Democrats, Hoyer said everything's looking hunky dory on the health reform front.

"We may have three committees with jurisdiction over healthcare in the House of Representatives, but we speak with one voice," Hoyer said in a statement.

Hoyer is acting as the House Democratic leadership's liaison to the health reform bill's authors and will broker any disputes that crop up between Waxman, Rangel, Miller et al. over policy or committee jurisdiction as the House marches toward its self-imposed deadline to pass its health reform bill before Congress exits for its August recess.

Squabbles between the chairmen of those same committees during President Clinton's first term significantly contributed to explosion of the Democrats' last attempt to remake the healthcare system.

In a letter to President Obama Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) reaffirmed their plan to mark up legislation in June and send a single bill to the Senate floor in time to meet the same August deadline. Like in the House, infighting among Senate Democrats in the 1990s helped scuttle Clinton's health reform effort.

- Jeffrey Young