Liberals will get single-payer vote on House floor

Seeking to dampen liberal anger about deals cut with centrists, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said House leaders have agreed to allow a floor vote on a government-run, single-payer system.

"A lot of members on our committee want a vote on that," said Waxman said in an interview. "I believe their wishes will be accommodated."

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) offered a single-payer amendment in the Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday, but withdrew it after Waxman said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had promised a floor vote.

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Waxman is trying to maintain the support a number of liberals on his committee who don't like the cuts that Waxman, the Obama administration and House leaders negotiated with centrist Blue Dog Democrats.

"I'm still not sure he has the votes," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). "Some people who said they were a yes are not supporting it."

Legislation creating a single-payer system would be expected to lose, but would allow liberal members to record their support for the proposal. It will also be a tough vote for some Democrats who will be wary of upsetting the liberal base.

Many liberal lawmakers feel that the controversial "public option" that would compete with private insurers is a compromise from single-payer.

In another part of the deal, the House bill would allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices and use the savings to lower insurance premiums in the health exchanges that would be established in the bill, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Hill.

Another provision calls for finding additional savings through other methods by simplifying Medicare and Medicaid administrative costs.

The cuts sought by the Blue Dogs would remain in place unless the drug negotiation and other initiatives yield savings. But any savings would be used to lower premiums.

This article was updated at 6:04 p.m.