The House Energy and Commerce Committee resumed its markup of health care reform Thursday as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defended the deal struck with some of the panel's conservative Democrats. Pelosi rejected criticism that she had given the Blue Dogs too much influence over the process. She said she doesn't think there is any disproportionate influence when members speak out in favor of their own constituents.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in some respects he believes the deal with the Blue Dogs improved the bill. But he conceded that Democrats have been losing the message war over the health bill with Republicans hammering away relentlessly at the measure's costs and claiming it would lead to a government takeover of health care. Hoyer predicts Democrats will regain lost ground in the public relations war during the August recess as they explain to constituents what the health bill would mean to them.
Meanwhile Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Nashville, Tenn. Thursday hosting a health care roundtable designed to discuss the Obama Administration's commitment to addressing the skyrocketing cost of health care and the importance of acting quickly to achieve real reform. Vilsack stressed the need for healthcare reform in rural America where families often have less access to providers, are more likely to be uninsured and pay more out of pocket than their urban counterparts.
Vilsack said the time has come to pass reform legislation that will reduce the soaring cost of health care and ensure that every American can access the health care they deserve. According to Vilsack reform will bring stability and security to all Americans who no longer will have to fear losing health coverage if they lose or switch jobs, become seriously ill or have a pre-existing medical condition. Vilsack pledged that under health insurance reform - nothing would get between patients' and doctors' decisions about what care is best. Not the government and not insurance companies.