Dems mull skipping panel, bringing healthcare to floor

House Democrats, still searching for a way to pass their healthcare bill before August, are considering bypassing the Energy and Commerce committee altogether, where the bill has stalled, and proceeding right to the floor.

“The preferable course would be to go through the committee,” Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) said Thursday night. “But all options will be on the table.”

Larson’s comments came as he and the rest of the Democratic leadership team emerged from a meeting where they hosted Ways and Means Committee and some Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats.

Earlier in the afternoon, leaders met for hours with the group of seven Energy and Commerce Blue Dogs who have vowed to block the bill from passing their committee. Those Blue Dogs still have disagreements over regional Medicare reimbursement disparities and insufficient health care savings.

Leaders, including Larson and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said progress is being made, but have announced only their intention to continue meeting.

The Energy and Commerce Blue Dogs have not said much more.

“We continue to discuss the items that I've talked to all y'all about for two weeks,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.). “I like to think we're making progress, and the talks are continuing, and that's a good thing.”

Bypassing Energy and Commerce, which cancelled it’s markup of the healthcare bill on Thursday, would clear one hurdle, but it wouldn’t necessarily solve the Democrat’s vote problem. Hoyer for one has noted since last week that regional concerns about Medicare are not limited to the Blue Dog Coalition.

At the same time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been adamant, even as recently as Thursday morning, that she has the votes to pass the bill on the floor.

Asked about shuffling the healthcare bill right to the floor, Pelosi on Thursday night said: “I don’t want to do that.”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was not immediately available for comment on the idea of scratching the rest of his markup.

At least one member of his panel, though, indicated that she believes the markup will proceed.

“We've been asked to clear our calendars for Saturday,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) who joined with six other members of the Committee on Thursday to announce an amendment package they intend to introduce if and when the markup resumes. “I have a busy day in Los Angeles, but I might be spending that busy day in Washington, D.C."