House panel approves healthcare reform bill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday night approved the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill, setting up a floor vote this fall.

The passage of the legislation came after days of intense negotiations between Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and conservative Democrats as well as liberal Democrats.

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In an unusual move before the final vote, Waxman halted the markup to have a closed-door meeting with Democrats on his panel – presumably to make sure he had the votes to pass the bill.

The final vote was 31-28, with five Democrats opposing the measure. Democrats who voted no were Reps. Rick Boucher (Va.), Bart Stupak (Mich.), Jim Matheson (Utah), John Barrow (Ga.) and Charles Melancon (La.). All Republicans rejected the bill.

House leaders had initially wanted to pass a healthcare bill on the floor before the August recess, but had to backtrack after Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee demanded changes.

Some liberals in the House are not pleased with Waxman’s concessions to the Blue Dogs.
 
Fifty-seven House Democrats have signed on to a letter rejecting facets of the deal though the bill was altered on Friday to appease concerns of liberal members.

After his committee cleared the bill, Waxman said, "We reached compromises and brought together a very diverse group of conservatives, moderates and progressives ... I am confident we will pass [the legislation] when it reaches the House floor."

Minutes after the vote, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a release criticizing Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) for supporting the bill. Republicans are targeting Hill's seat in the 2010 election.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is the third and final House Committee to pass healthcare reform legislation. House leaders will now need to meld the bills passed by the three committees before an expected floor vote in September.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated on Friday that some of the most hard-fought provisions of the healthcare bill -- including parts meant to appease conservative Democrats -- could change by the time the final measure reaches the House floor.

"I have three chairmen to deal with," Pelosi said. "We have three committees that have to look at it."

Mike Soraghan contributed to this report, which was last updated at 9:31 p.m.



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