Waxman: I Won't Tolerate Bipartisanship

Congressman Henry Waxman is in charge of developing health care overhaul legislation that can pass the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He’s not having much success, as a few moderate Democrats have insisted on cost-cutting measures. Today Waxman made clear that he’s willing to make en end-run around the moderates, and bring his radical legislation straight to the House floor.

In doing so, he made an interesting promise:

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) told reporters Friday he is prepared to bypass his committee and go straight to the House floor with a health care reform bill if he can’t get an agreement with Blue Dog Democrats.

Waxman said his preference is to reach a deal with the Blue Dogs, whom he is meeting with this afternoon, and “go forward with the markup and stand together as Democrats.”

But he added, “If we can’t, then it’s my view that we are going to have to look at perhaps bypassing the committee — I hope we don’t come to that conclusion…”

“I think this would deal with their issues,” Waxman said. “I hope they will agree to let our committee go forward with a markup and not [allow] Republicans to eviscerate the legislation.

“In fact I won’t allow that — to turn over the control of the committee to the Republicans — which is what they have threatened to do.”

The House of Representatives is an institution where the majority rules. In general, that’s how the whole U.S. government works. Yet Chairman Waxman thinks health care is too important to allow a majority of the committee and the House to work its will.

President Obama has promised over and over to push a bipartisan agenda. Now one of the top Democrats in Congress is not only working to undercut a bipartisan effort, he says he will not allow it. He says that bipartisanship is a threat.

Under Republican rule, Democrats frequently complained that rather than allow a majority of the House to have its way, Republicans were resorting to rule by ‘the majority of the majority.’ When Speaker Hastert resorted to a ‘majority of the majority’ strategy to pass intelligence legislation, Democrats were outraged:

Other House Democrats agree. Republicans “like to talk about bipartisanship,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “But when the opportunity came to pass a truly bipartisan bill — one that would have passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly and would have made the American people safer — they failed to do it.”

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a White House aide when NAFTA passed, said this week, “What is more comforting to the terrorists around the world: the failure to pass the 9/11 legislation because we lacked ‘a majority of the majority,’ or putting aside partisan politics to enact tough new legislation with America’s security foremost in mind?”

Back in 2004, intelligence legislation was too important to allow the Congressional leadership to force passage of its agenda. Is the overhaul of health care in this country less important? Don’t hold your breath waiting for consistency from Speaker Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel.

They probably won’t even insist that Henry Waxman stick to a deal once it’s been made.

Cross-posted to theconservatives.com