Inside Health Policy has reported that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman “stormed out” of a meeting with Nancy Pelosi, Nancy-Ann DeParle, and Rahm Emanuel. When reporters asked Waxman about rumors that Pelosi was considering bypassing Waxman’s Committee and heading straight to the House floor with a health care reform package, Waxman told them to “Ask the Speaker.” When Pelosi was later asked the same question, she replied “I don’t want to do that.” Notice that she did not say she wouldn’t.
It’s clear that tensions are increasing on the Hill these days, and some of the Peyton Place elements of the House soap opera are not making things any easier, as both Waxman and Pelosi have their share of enemies. Waxman worked hard to depose John Dingell and win that chairmanship earlier this year. Meanwhile, Pelosi opposed Steny Hoyer’s successful bid for Majority Leader, and also circumvented Jane Harman’s bid for a chairmanship a while back. If Pelosi goes straight to the floor with health reform, she’ll likely be making an enemy out of Waxman, as bypassing a committee process is extremely insulting to committee chairmen. In addition, the Democrats know they have to pass something, yet are coming to realize that the product they have come up with is unpopular in theory and will be even worse should it be made into reality. The media have been overusing the old metaphor of the circular firing squad to refer to conservatives lately, but my old mentor Ben Wattenberg once told me that when things get tense, you could always count on the liberals to line up in a circle and start shooting; looks like he was right.
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