Democrats pushed healthcare reform legislation forward in a key House of Representatives panel on Friday but overall progress for President Barack Obama's top policy goal has slowed ahead of a monthlong August recess.
We've agreed that we need to pull together, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman told reporters, adding that his panel's diverse group of Democrats had agreed on a package of amendments for the bill, which he expects will be approved later on Friday.
Those changes are expected to include an increase in subsidies for the poor and more savings from drug companies.
Obama has staked much of his political fortune on winning overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system this year, in order to expand insurance coverage to most Americans and hold down skyrocketing growth in medical costs.
But Congress will leave for a monthlong summer recess soon with major disagreements on its cost and scope unresolved.
The effort was dealt a major setback on Thursday when Senate Democrats said they had not made sufficient progress to permit a vote in the Finance Committee before senators leave next week for the summer break.
In the House, Waxman's committee was to vote later Friday after reaching a compromise on changes designed to hold down costs sought by fiscal conservatives, known as Blue Dog Democrats, while also satisfying more liberal members who want to see broader healthcare coverage.
The compromise will include changes that will directly impact the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies, Democrats told reporters.
Representative Jane Harman, a Democrat and member of the Blue Dogs, said the House bill would include a robust public option for people to get health insurance, a main concern of liberal Democrats.
Waxman's panel is the last of three House committees to vote on healthcare reform.
Obama has stepped up his lobbying
for passage of a measure to rein in costs, improve care and cover most of the 46 million uninsured Americans.
But as congressional discussions drag on, more Americans are voicing doubt over the reform plan, with many worried that a costly overhaul could reduce the quality of their care and limit choices of doctors.
The White House and leaders of the Democratic-controlled Congress had hoped the final committees considering the measure in each chamber -- the House Energy and Senate Finance panels -- could complete deliberations before the August recess.