Waxman, Blue Dogs getting closer?

WAXMAN, BLUE DOGS GETTING CLOSER?…. As of mid-day Friday, negotiations between House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and conservative Blue Dog Democrats weren’t just going poorly, they’d completely collapsed. Slowly but surely, principals returned to the table, and agreed to keep seeking agreement.

As of late yesterday, there’d apparently been quite a bit of progress.

Reps. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.) emerged from more than three hours of negotiations late Monday to say that the Blue Dogs were weighing an offer from Waxman. Blue Dogs have asked Waxman to get a cost estimate for the bill.

“The chairman has made an offer,” said Ross, who is the lead Blue Dog on healthcare reform. “We have asked that he get a [Congressional Budget Office] score, that is, find out how much it would cost. We’re going to review it and see if it’s something we can accept.”

Granted, Ross’s comments sound non-committal. But for the better part of the summer, Ross has expressed his, and his conservative caucus’s, unambiguous opposition to House reform measures. Moving from “no” to “we’re going to review it” is evidence of constructive negotiations.

Of course, those of us outside the negotiations don’t know what kind of concessions Waxman was willing to make to reach this point, but according to reports this morning Ross said Waxman’s offer “addresses all 10 of the concerns Blue Dogs have raised with the bill.”

We’ll see how far Waxman was willing to go, but if his record is any indication, he’s far more reliable and trustworthy when it comes to progressive benchmarks than the other Democratic leader negotiating with conservatives: Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

And speaking of the House, the Democratic caucus apparently held a five-hour meeting last night — that’s not a typo — to go over every section of their health care bill with every Democratic member of the House.

No word on whether the meeting went well — or whether the overview reflects possible changes resulting from Waxman/Blue Dog talks — but one assumes the caucus is, at a minimum, better informed about the details.