In a big victory for the White House, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a major set of changes to the health care system in America, voting 31-28 in favor of a bill that was forged after days of high stakes negotiations involving all wings of the Democratic Party.
Committee members and staffers cheered as the final vote was announced, which represents a major step forward for Democrats, but a lot more work lies ahead.
As evidence of the divisions with their party, five Democrats on the committee voted no, they were Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, Rep. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan and Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah.
The key votes were delivered by several other Blue Dogs who stuck with chairman Henry Waxman. You could also argue those same votes were delivered by liberals who were upset by the Blue Dog deals, but forged their own agreements very late on Thursday night.
Now the job for Democrats is to take this bill, and the bills approved by two other committees and fuse them together, leading to a floor vote after Labor Day.
That job won’t be easy, as was showcased by the marathon negotiations involving all wings of the Democratic Party in recent weeks, which at times was on the verge of a meltdown.
It’s unclear how quickly Democratic leaders will make the numerous decisions on what should be in the final bill, and when that will be presented to lawmakers and the voters.
The White House had wanted votes in both the full House and Senate to be over with already, but the sheer number of issues involved in health care reform slowed that timeline down repeatedly.
In the Senate, one key committee will try again after Labor Day to reach a deal on a bill, putting Senate Democrats well behind their counterparts in the House.
You can see all the actions of the House Energy & Commerce Committee from Friday at http://bit.ly/EKTfz