Ready To Hit The Ground Running

Last night, health care reform cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee, meaning that it is ready to be brought to the floor as soon as Congress’ August recess ends:

After nearly two weeks of delays, a health care bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee late Friday night, setting the stage for a full floor vote in the lower chamber — but not for more than a month, as the House will be on vacation until Sept. 8.

The committee passed its reform bill 31 to 28, with five Democrats joining every Republican in voting no. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders said at a press conference earlier Friday that they will spend much of their August recess working to reconcile the Energy and Commerce bill with the stronger bills passed by the Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees on July 17.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) had been furiously negotiating with warring Democratic factions since negotiations broke down early last week.

This part, in particular, makes me happy:

With the aid of Obama administration officials, Waxman and those four struck a deal Wednesday that delayed the full House vote past August, weakened the bill’s public health care option and cut $100 billion over 10 years, much of it in subsidies for uninsured members of the middle class who would be ineligible for the public plan.

Those concessions prompted an outcry from House progressives, 57 of whom signed a letter to House leadership and the three committee chairmen protesting the Blue Dog deal. Waxman struck a deal between the progressives and Blue Dogs early Friday morning that left the public option delinked from Medicare and forced to negotiate its own rates, but restored the middle-income subsidies by shifting funds from existing federal health care programs. The deal also slightly reduced the cost of premiums for the uninsured, from 12 percent of a household’s annual income to 11 percent.

More after the jump…

It’s good that House progressives are showing some backbone, and I’m glad to see the Blue Dogs forced to compromise for once–honestly, I’m sick of having a bunch of pro-wealth corporatist Democrats holding every major piece of legislation hostage.

Of course, we all know why the Blue Dogs are trying to kill meaningful health care reform:

The roiling debate about health-care reform has been a boon to the political fortunes of [Rep. Mike] Ross and 51 other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, who have become key brokers in shaping legislation in the House.


At the same time, the group has set a record pace for fundraising this year through its political action committee, surpassing other congressional leadership PACs in collecting more than $1.1 million through June. More than half the money came from the health-care, insurance and financial services industries, marking a notable surge in donations from those sectors compared with earlier years, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

[Emphasis added]

So while I’m happy to see major progress being made on health care reform, I’m unhappy that we’re going to have to wait until September–at the very least–to get it done.  Remember, because Congress is delaying reform until after the August recess:

143,000+ will lose their health care.

53,000+ will file for bankruptcy because of medical bills.

1,265 will die because of lack of coverage.

But for the Blue Dogs, all of that–as well as the 22,000 Americans who die each year because of inadequate health care–is a small price to pay in exchange for lucrative campaign contributions from the health industrial complex.

It’s time for health care reform. And maybe it’s also time for campaign finance reform, so we can take a large bloc of Congress out of the pockets of big business and put them back on the side of the people.