Dem rep wants president to ramp up health pressure

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson says that President Obama needs to ramp up the pressure on House Democrats holding up the healthcare reform bill so that the lower chamber passes it before heading home for August recess.

According to the Georgia lawmaker, he told a White House official on the Hill for negotiations to “ask the president to turn up the heat, targeting the folks who are holding it up – as he has been doing – but don’t stop. We need as much help from the president as we can get.”

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The sophomore lawmaker told The Hill that members would get hammered by their constituents if they head home for recess before approving the president’s trillion-dollar healthcare package.

“We can’t go home leaving healthcare hanging out and everybody’s saying, ‘You’re home on vacation,'” Johnson said.

The president had set the end of July as a deadline by which both chambers must pass the trillion-dollar overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system, but Senate leaders have said that they would not be able to make that deadline.

Johnson noted, though, that the Senate has the luxury of taking its time but House members – elected every two years – have to work on an expedited schedule.

“Folks are dying every day because (of) lack of access to the healthcare that they need so I don’t think the American people are going to be happy with Congress if the House is not doing its job,” the former judge told The Hill.

House leaders had been more optimistic until Friday afternoon when negotiations among seven conservative Blue Dog Democrats and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman temporarily broke down - an ominous sign that the chamber will not be able to vote on a bill until they return from the nearly month-long district work period.

Following a late afternoon leadership powwow in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that though the House would pass a bill, they may have to wait until returning to Capitol Hill in September before voting on the lightning-rod legislation.

House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn (S.C.) revealed that he is not pushing to stay in session if lawmakers haven’t produced a bill by the time recess starts on July 31.

“If we could do this tomorrow without consensus and have to wait another week and do it without consensus, I’d rather wait another week,” Clyburn said.

As for Johnson’s argument that the House act immediately, Clyburn said that he could understand Johnson’s “passion on this,” but the issue of healthcare reform is not a new one.

“I’ve heard from my constituents on this issue for years so I’ve heard nothing different than from what I’ve heard from years."