Waxman confident compromise will pass

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said Wednesday night he has the votes to pass a compromise he forged with Blue Dog Democrats when his committee starts voting on amendments.
 
"Members are thinking about it, but I think we will" have the votes, Waxman said Wednesday night after an hours-long meeting with the Democrats on his committee.
 
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The committee is expected to begin its long-delayed markup Thursday morning now that Waxman and four centrist Blue Dogs on his committee agreed on changes. The changes cut $100 billion out of the bill, and push floor action on the bill to after the five-week recess that begins Saturday.
 
The agreement has sparked outrage among House liberals who say it damages their top priority, a government-run public healthcare plan.
 
Opponents say they can marshal at least 50 votes against the Blue Dog deal. If Republicans, as expected, vote against the bill, that is enough votes to defeat it.
 
"We need 50 at least," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "We feel certain we've got that."
 
Opponents are planning a press conference tomorrow to demonstrate the level of opposition to the plan in the Democratic caucus.
 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has stressed there will still be opportunities to change the bill before it comes to the floor for a vote. She issued a statement with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Wednesday saying that committee staffers will work during August to merge the bills that have been handled by three committees into one bill.
 
"This is an agreement to get it out of committee," said a senior Democratic aide.
 
Some supporters of the public plan on the committee said they could live with the changes. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) said the briefing of committee Democrats made her "more inclined to support" the Blue Dog amendments.
 
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who serves on the committee, said the compromise "eviscerates" the public plan. And he's frustrated that the agreement was presented to committee members as "take it or leave it."
 
But he still may vote for it, because he's concerned that if the bill stalls in committee, House leaders will simply bypass the committee. Engel said he's undecided.
 
"The thing is to keep the process going and keep the committee relevant," Engel said.
 
Jared Allen contributed to this story