The House will not vote on a liberal Democratic plan to have a fully
government-run "single-payer" healthcare plan, House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi announced Friday.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to pursue a single-payer plan in the healthcare overhaul. But Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) secured a commitment from leadership in July to have an "up-or-down vote" on the single-payer approach during floor debate. He got it in exchange for liberal support of a compromise with Blue Dogs on the public health insurance option in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The amendment almost certainly would have lost, but would have demonstrated what support there is among Democrats for single-payer.
But as the vote, now planned for Saturday, has neared, Pelosi has seemed increasingly reluctant to open the bill up for any amendments, even from her own party.
Weiner said Friday after Pelosi's announcement that he didn't want his push for a vote to interfere with passing the healthcare bill, which is proving difficult enough for Democratic leaders. He said that vote counting efforts turned up complaints that a single-payer vote could put some centrist lawmakers in a bind, caught between their liberal base and their more conservative constituents.
"I didn't want the legacy of single-payer to be that it jeopardized passage of healthcare reform this year," Weiner said.
Pelosi's praised Weiner as "tireless and effective advocate for progress on healthcare."
"His decision not to offer a single-payer amendment during consideration of H.R. 3962 is a correct one and helps advance the passage of important health reforms by this Congress," Pelosi said in a statement, which was echoed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who negotiated the July deal.
Pelosi's announcement was followed a few minutes later by a news release from Weiner's office.
“I have decided not to offer a single payer alternative to the health reform bill at this time," Weiner said in the release. "Given how fluid the negotiations are on the final push to get comprehensive health care reform that covers millions of Americans and contains costs through a public option, I became concerned that my amendment might undermine that important goal.
"I've discussed the issue with Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Waxman, and agree with them that the health reform bill is so close it deserves every chance to gain a majority," he added.
Some members had hinted that Pelosi might schedule a vote on a stand-alone single-payer bill, but Pelosi did not mention that in her announcement.
This story was updated at 12:30 p.m.