WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Budget Committee voted 21-16 on Monday to send the health reform reconciliation bill to the Rules Committee, then continued its debate. Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett said that under the current system a patient can unknowingly buy a health-care policy that is “not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Florida Democrat Allen Boyd and Texas Democrat Chet Edwards joined Republicans in voting against the reconciliation bill and had voted against the health bill when it was put to a floor vote last fall.
Even though the reconciliation bill would affect the Senate rules, it must begin in the House.
The bill seeks to ban filibusters from the Senate vote on health care reform, requiring only a simple majority vote to pass. Republicans control 41 votes in the Senate, and would be capable of a filibuster without the reconciliation bill.
While deciding on the instructions that would accompany the reconciliation bill, the lawmakers settled into their designated positions on the health care battleground.
Republicans characterized the health bill as an open-ended entitlement that reduces patient options and said the American people clearly don’t like it.
“You get to keep what we tell you you can keep,” Florida Republican Connie Mac said in contrasting the minimum insurance standards that are included in the health bill and President Obama’s promise that patients can keep plans they like. “I don’t know how you can sit there and support the idea that bureaucrats are going to decide what choices you have. It’s just un-American,” Mac said.
Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis characterized the health debate as one between the far liberal mentality “and the rest of us.”
Democrats said Republicans are acting for the benefit of insurance companies and said patients should know that they can rely on insurance plans to have minimum requirements.
“Oh really, the Republicans want people to buy unacceptable coverage?” Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth said.
The House Rules Committee will now will now determine the rules for the debate on the bill, and could convene a hearing later this week.
Democrats have long hinted they would use the reconciliation process if the bill failed to garner Republican support.
Republicans are painting reconciliation as a dishonest way of forcing through health legislation. Democrats have defended the process’s use for the legislation as fair and legal, and entirely consistent with Republican tactics when Republicans were in the majority.
Both Republicans and Democrats have invoked reconciliation on large bills in the past, but Republicans have been the most consistent users of the tactic.
Democrats outlined last week that the House would first vote on the Senate health bill, already approved by a super-majority of senators. President Obama would then sign the bill into law before the two houses could negotiate changes in a separate package.
Passing the Senate bill in full requires a leap of faith by House members who have to approve the Senate version first. Senators have said they can’t use reconciliation until the bill being amended has been signed into law.
Obama has called on lawmakers to hold a final vote on health reform after a year of sometimes vicious debate on the floors, emotional protests and rowdy town-hall meetings. Success on the health front could give momentum to other items on his agenda, such as the sizeable climate and finance reform bills.
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