Henry Waxman makes another deal, keeps the ball rolling

HENRY WAXMAN MAKES ANOTHER DEAL, KEEPS THE BALL ROLLING…. A couple of months ago, the Washington Monthly ran a cover story on House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman that highlighted, among other things, the fact that the California Democrat knows “not only how to make a deal, but how to make the right one.”

It’s a skill that’s been put to the test this week, and Waxman seem to have come through quite nicely.

As of yesterday, the committee chairman was struggling to get a health care reform bill out of his committee and onto the House floor. He had a deal with Blue Dogs that angered the left, and if Waxman pulled back to satisfy liberals’ concerns, he’d lose the conservatives. After more discussions this morning, another compromise is reportedly in place.

Liberals and a small core of conservative Democrats set aside long-standing ideological differences early Friday to cut a deal that should allow the House Energy and Commerce Committee to approve a sweeping health care bill, breaking a two-week deadlock that threatened President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

Blue Dog Democrats on the committee, who are the linchpin in the House health care debate, agreed to allow their liberal colleagues to cut billions from existing government-funded health care programs in order to restore some $50 billion to $65 billion in subsidies set aside in the bill to help middle-income families purchase coverage. […]

Moderates and liberals on the committee will offer a package during committee consideration that will make changes the Blue Dogs secured in a deal with Waxman earlier this week. The amendment also includes a liberal priority: reducing premiums many uninsured people will be required to pay for health coverage. The change would lower the premium from 12 percent of a household’s total annual income to 11 percent.

This middle-of-the-road approach should give both sides the cover they need to approve the overarching legislation.

This is not to say there will be smooth sailing in the House going forward. The Energy and Commerce bill will have to be reconciled with the similar bills passed by the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee. Waxman has, for now, satisfied the concerns of progressive Dems and conservatives Dems on his panel, but the larger caucus still has members, both left and right, who need to be convinced.

That said, Waxman will host a vote in about two hours, and at that point, a health care reform bill will be headed to the House floor for the first time ever.