Blue Dogs still chewing on Waxman's offer

The fate of the House healthcare proposal rested in the hands of the Blue Dogs on Tuesday morning as the coalition review the healthcare compromise offered Monday night by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

“We’re not there yet,” Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), a Blue Dog co-chairman and member of the Energy and Commerce panel, said upon leaving the hot, crowded meeting. “We’ve had a good discussion with the Blue Dogs here this morning, and we’ll take it from there.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Hill then retreated to his personal office along with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Zack Space (D-Ohio) and John Barrow (D-Ga.), three of the seven Blue Dogs who hold the keys to unlocking the healthcare bill from the Energy and Commerce Committee. That group was gathering to consider whether to accept Waxman’s proposal or to make a counter-offer and keep the negotiations going.

“The seven of us have to meet to decide exactly how we believe we should proceed,” Ross said. “I think we’ll have something to say about that later in the day.”

Hill described Waxman’s offer — the details of which have not become available — as a hybrid between the House Democrats' plan and the demands of the Blue Dogs.

“I think what the chairman has done has agreed to a lot of our proposals in a hybrid fashion,” Hill said. “In other words, he’s kind of watered them down. And we’ve got to make a determination whether or not we’re going to accept that watered-down proposal or make a counter-proposal.”

“We’ll see. It’s hour by hour,” added Hill.

Waxman has said he wants his committee to resume consideration of the bill by Wednesday, even though prospects for House passage of a bill before August seem remote. But the continuation of the markup will only be possible if the Blue Dogs on his committee are satisfied.

Other Blue Dogs who attended the coalition-wide meeting said it doesn’t appear as though an agreement has been reached.

“The bottom line of the Blue Dogs has not been met yet,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.).

Further complicating prospects for movement this week was the Blue Dog demand that the Congressional Budget Office weigh in on the cost of the Waxman offer before they budget.

“Our biggest concern is making sure we control cost, and that has to be determined by CBO,” Hill said. “Until we get that information we’re not ready to support a bill yet.”