House committees advance healthcare overhaul

Two key House committees moved along Democratic healthcare legislation on Friday, only days after the bill was introduced.

Both the Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee approved versions of the bill, which would create a government-run insurance plan and is estimated to cost more than $1 trillion. The bill would be offset through $500 billion in new taxes on wealthy earners and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

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Republican united in opposition to the measure and were joined by some centrist Democrats.

The Ways and Means Committee voted to send the Democrat-crafted healthcare reform bill to the full House after a 23-18 vote, with three Democrats voting against it: Reps. Ron Kind (Wis.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.) and John Tanner (Tenn.).

The Education and Labor Committee approved their portion of the bill by a 26-22 vote. Democratic Reps. Jared Polis (Colo.), Dina Titus (Nev.) and Jason Altimire (Pa.) voted against the bill.

The bills will be merged with another version being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is on its second day marking up the bill and is expected to finish Wednesday. Centrist Democrats on that committee are expected to offer many amendments in an attempt to bring the bill further toward the political middle, specifically on issues related to containing healthcare costs.

"This is an exciting day in the history of this committee and the Congress as we tackle the challenges of reforming America's healthcare system," Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "Today the committee approved legislation that will encourage competition in the health insurance marketplace, control costs and improve access to quality affordable care."

But John Kline (Minn.), the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, blasted the Democrats for moving the bill, which exceeds 1,000 pages, through the committees just days after its introduction. Kline noted that the quick pace was occurring despite a warning Thursday from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf that the legislation would increase long-term federal spending on healthcare.

“Democrats’ stubborn insistence on voting when the ink had scarcely dried on the page belies a frantic rush to ratify unsound policy before its inadequacies — and consequences — could be fully realized," he said in a statement. "Healthcare is too important to get wrong. Republicans are offering commonsense solutions to make healthcare more affordable and accessible, and we stand ready to work with Democrats on meaningful bipartisan reform. The American people deserve better than the Democrats’ frenzied, partisan antics.”

Molly K. Hooper and Jeffrey Young contributed to this article.

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