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House Leadership Makes Another End-Run Around Conservatives

Once again, House GOP leaders have shown why it is important for us to elect enough stalwarts to replace the entire leadership team.

Every Republican complains about spending.  One establishment Republican is even running an ad promising to “castrate” D.C. spending.   Yet few of them are committed to blocking a new spending increase, much less roll back existing programs.  Today, House leaders brought a bill to the floor that will increase spending.  They didn’t have enough votes to pass it, so they decided to ram it through by voice vote.

Every year, due to the lack of free-market healthcare for seniors, Congress must supplement payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.  Government intervention into the healthcare market has precipitated such inflationary pressure in the healthcare sector that the government reimbursement rate, known as the SGR formula, is insufficient to cover the costs of Medicare payments.  In order to rectify the situation, instead of passing free-market Medicare reform, Congress passes a temporary fix (doc fix) every year to reimburse doctors for the underpayments, which are roughly 24 percent of their payments.

After failing to adopt the annual temporary “doc fix” last December, the House passed a bill two weeks ago that will permanently boost payments and pay for the increased spending by tying it to a long-term delay of the individual mandate in Obamacare.  H.R. 4015, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act, passed the House with 12 Democrats joining every Republican in the chamber.  This bill actually used a legitimate offset to end this charade of temporary fixes until we can finally impose free market structural reforms on the single-payer Medicare system.

After Senate Democrats balked at the proposal, Republicans decided to give in and pass a temporary extension.  They used a hodgepodge of tenuous offsets spread out mainly over the next 5-10 years to compensate for an immediate expense that will undoubtedly reoccur every year under the 10-year budget frame.  When they sensed that they lacked the votes to pass the bill, House leaders made an end-run around Congress:

The bipartisan power move to hold a voice vote allowed members to avoid a tough roll call, which would have forced them either to vote for a bill they do not support or allow doctors who treat Medicare patients to take a pay cut, incensing powerful outside interests.

The tactic flies in the face of Speaker John A. Boehner’s pledge to be a transparent and rule-abiding Congress, members and aides said. […]

The move incensed members of both parties, who said that democracy was in effect subverted to avoid putting members in a politically tough situation.

“It erodes our confidence in our own system, and there will be discussion about this, I’m quite sure about that,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

“I don’t like it, I don’t like the idea that they’re going to do surprise votes for voice vote which turns out to be the equivalent of unanimous consent, because if anybody had called a vote on this thing, I think they knew it wasn’t going to pass,” King continued. “A lot of members, for a long time, are going to have to post somebody here to sit on edge waiting to call for a recorded vote because of this maneuver, this tactic here today.” [Roll Call]

This is part of a disturbing pattern of leadership using over-hyped deadlines as leverage to pass bad legislation.  In this case, the doc fix deadline was set at April 1.

Remember, this pattern will not change with Republicans in charge of the Senate, unless we change leadership in both chambers.  They have shown that when they are up against a Washington deadline – be it a debt ceiling, budget bill, or any number of program reauthorizations – they will press the panic button and give into Democrat demands.

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