Bipartisan House group to meet again in upcoming week on health reform

A handful of bipartisan House members intend to hold a second meeting this upcoming week to discuss areas of agreement on the administration’s landmark healthcare reform plan.

The six Republicans and seven Democrats agreed to continue the “informal conversation” started last Wednesday on areas of common ground such as insurance reform, medical malpractice and insurance portability across states.

ADVERTISEMENT
The result of the initial meeting was positive, according to a number of the participants at last week’s hour-long session.

“The train is moving, there's no question that the train is moving,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).

Still, it seems unlikely the meetings will result in a bipartisan bill.

Lawmakers in both parties snicker quietly when asked whether compromise will be reached.

Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) said he didn’t question the sincerity of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in trying to reach a deal, but “as they used to say ‘I’ll eat my hat’ if anything positive and bipartisan comes from it.”

Hoyer and Cantor sat down Thursday to discuss areas of agreement.

Both leaders made clear that they would not bend on their caucus’s official position on the creation of a public healthcare option, according to Cantor, who nonetheless characterized the meeting as “very helpful.”

The two lawmakers leading the bipartisan talks are Rep. Xavier Becerra, vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.). The other lawmakers taking part are Yarmuth and Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Kathy Castor (D-Fl.), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fl.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.).

Given the huge differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issue, the talks aren’t likely to result in a compromise.

But Yarmuth said they could still be constructive.

“There’s no guarantee that this is going to pass,” he said of the healthcare bill. “It’s very good to know where there’s some areas of agreement where we might go forward.”

That’s the position Boustany has taken as well.

The retired heart-surgeon has been one of his party’s most active voices on healthcare reform, aggressively pushing for GOP positions to be included in a final bill.

“I think they are still going through their issues, and if that’s the case, there’s still a possibility we can have our voices heard,” Boustany told The Hill late Thursday.

Republicans selected him to give the national response to President Obama’s healthcare address to a joint session of Congress in early September.