Obama to lobby Energy and Commerce Dems

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce panel are headed to the White House, not their committee room, on Tuesday.

Instead of continuing their markup, Energy and Commerce Democrats will be lobbied by President Obama at the White House. Tuesday’s continuing markup was canceled, but the panel is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday.

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The delays and intense effort by the White House cast more doubt on whether the House will meet its deadline of voting on the landmark bill before the August recess.

Conservative Democrats on the panel have criticized the healthcare reform bill’s costs, and complained it does not do enough to reduce long-term healthcare spending. Freshman Democrats have also been worried about growing fiscal deficits and the risk the healthcare bill could add to them, while members from wealthy districts are upset about a surcharge on the wealthy that would be used to pay for some of the bill’s costs.

The White House meeting is scheduled at 12:45 on Tuesday.

Obama is continuing his press on healthcare reform with comments in the Rose Garden scheduled for the noon hour. Obama is also scheduled to meet at the White House with several Democratic chairmen in the House and Senate.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said he would attend the meeting, and Democratic sources also said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) would attend. Dodd has been shepherding legislation through the Senate Health panel in the absence of ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

The Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees approved portions of the healthcare reform bill last week.

In the Senate, Dodd’s committee has approved legislation, but Baucus’s committee has been unable to produce a bill.

Republicans have gone on the attack, sensing the bill is in trouble. They’ve pressed Obama to abandon his August deadline for House action.

Rangel said Obama had called the chairman’s meeting “to show that he’s in charge.” House and Senate Democratic leaders and relevant committee heads met with the president last week as well.

Sam Youngman contributed to this story.

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