Henry Waxman had to pull a lot of strings to get the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House, kicking longtime chair John Dingell out for his moderate stance on cap-and-trade. However, his most controversial action in the ECC hasn’t come on cap-and-trade but on Barack Obama’s push to get a health-care reform bill passed before the August recess. Waxman has threatened renegade Democrats on the panel that he will allow Pelosi to bypass them if they don’t fall into line:
Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says there is “no alternative” but to have healthcare legislation bypass his Energy and Commerce Committee if Blue Dog Democrats don’t accept a deal worked out Friday.
Waxman is now playing a game of legislative chicken with the Blue Dogs. He’s hoping the inclusion of a study on Medicare reimbursement rates in the healthcare overhaul will be enough to placate the centrist Democrats, who say the government program short-changes hospitals and physicians in their rural districts.
If that’s not, the seven Blue Dogs could join with the committee’s Republicans to “eviscerate” healthcare reform, and that’s something Waxman will not tolerate.
Think of this as a “nuclear option”. Waxman and Pelosi could get the bill past the ECC moderates, but that would almost certainly provoke a floor fight between Democrats when the bill comes up for a vote. Moderate Democrats who already have publicly-expressed reservations over ObamaCare will dig in their heels, and at the moment, they have enough votes to kill it.
In all likelihood, this is a big bluff. With consensus on the bill falling apart at the seams, and with Obama’s approval ratings crashing, the last thing Pelosi needs is a schism among her own troops that could rapidly turn bitter. After all, she’s not that far removed from her CIA-lied debacle, and a failure of her leadership at this juncture would probably rekindle the impulse to replace her with Steny Hoyer, a steadier and more well-liked leader.
Just as with Rahm Emanuel’s statement this morning on NPR, though, it bears close watching.