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Dems double down on health care
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are double-teaming powerful chairmen and rank-and-file members to save health care reform from a repeat of the Democratic Party infighting that helped kill it in 1994.
In a closed-door session Tuesday, Pelosi assured rank-and-file Democrats that she won't move forward on a bill without their consent. "We have to hear from you," one participant quoted Pelosi as saying.
In a separate closed-door session in the speaker's office, Pelosi and Hoyer urged Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) to heed the concerns of moderate Democrats.
That meeting came on the heels of a joint memo prepared by top aides to the speaker and the majority leader.
While Hoyer has been marshaling support for health care reform for months, Pelosi's increasingly hands-on involvement reflects the pressure to move quickly on President Barack Obama's top first-year legislative priority -- and it's a signal that there's no daylight to exploit between the speaker and her No. 2.
"The point is to send a message clearly that they're not going to play the speaker off of Hoyer on this stuff," said a Democratic health care lobbyist.
Waxman, Miller and Rangel -- along with their respective aides -- are trying to draft legislation in concert with each other so their committees will take up the same bill later this summer.
"This is the year we have to do it," Waxman told reporters after the caucus meeting. "There's an overwhelming commitment to getting this done."
"We'll all go together," Miller said Tuesday.
"Ultimately," said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), "our job is to come together as a caucus."
But that's easier said than done -- especially on an issue as contentious as this one.