From a professional standpoint, I've been impressed with the White House's strategy of going one by one through the key health-care industry groups — starting with pharma and then hospitals — to agree to certain savings as part of a series of side deals leading up to a major health-reform deal. This strategy has the twin advantages of securing industry sign-off, making it hard for the groups to oppose the package later, and committing these industries to savings that can be counted as part of the pay-fors of the bill.
But this morning's Washington Post reports that Henry Waxman has said that the White House has told him that these types of deals are not binding to the White House, although the industry groups will presumably be held to the savings they have committed to. According to Waxman:
The White House is not bound. They tell us they're not bound by that agreement.
If I'm an industry representative who has just committed to some very difficult cuts, I would have a hard time explaining to my members, some of whom are already chafing at the size of the cuts, that the White House is not bound by our agreement. More importantly, if I am negotiating a new agreement with this White House — on health care or on any other issue — I would ask some tough questions about whether the White House views their agreements as binding.