GOP cries foul over Dems plan to avoid direct vote on health care

The effort by House Democrats to get enough votes to pass the health care overhaul bill may be gaining some traction. Meanwhile Republicans are crying foul over an obscure parliamentary procedure that the Democrats are thinking about using. It would allow Democrats to pass the health care reform bill without directly voting on the current plan.

The effort by House Democrats to get enough votes to pass the health care overhaul bill may be gaining some traction.

A liberal lawmaker who voted against it last time, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, says he’ll vote yes.

President Obama also picked up the vote from one of the pro-life Democrats that wanted to see tougher restrictions on federal funding for abortion.

Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee now says he will vote for the health care bill.

Meanwhile Republicans are crying foul over an obscure parliamentary procedure that the Democrats are thinking about using.  It would allow Democrats to pass the health care reform bill without directly voting on the current plan.

Today Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield called on lawmakers to vote up or down on the proposal.

 

Here is the text of Congressman Whitfield’s remarks.

U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (KY-01) sharply criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House of Representatives today for suggesting that she may use a procedural move to pass controversial healthcare reform legislation through the House without allowing Members to vote on the actual bill.

“If you support legislation, stand up and support it. If you oppose legislation, stand up and oppose it,” Whitfield said.

“But Members of Congress should not hide behind a procedural move to avoid having to make the tough decisions in front of the American public. Passing controversial legislation which will have an impact on nearly every aspect of our society without voting on it in the House of Representatives is a slap in the face to this legislative body and an utter disservice to the citizens we were sent here to represent.”

Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi told a group of reporters that she might use a procedural move, known as a “self-executing” or “deem and pass” rule, to pass healthcare reform legislation without Members of Congress having to vote for the legislation. Speaker Pelosi would have the House vote on a more popular package of changes to the healthcare bill passed by the Senate in December. Under House rules for that vote, passage of this bill would signify that lawmakers “deem” the healthcare bill to be passed. This would allow Members of Congress to avoid having to vote on the actual healthcare bill.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the Democrats latest effort to pass the health care overhaul.

“They want to hide what they’re doing from the American people, whom they see as an obstacle to what they’re trying to do. The only way to stop this madness is for a few courageous Democrats to step forward and stop it."

McConnell made the following speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.

 

"But there's still a lot to be said about the process that Democrats are using to force this bill through. That won't change whether they get their votes this week or not.

"The fact is, the die has already been cast on this Congress. Democrat leaders have been imploring members to make history by voting for this bill. But this Congress is already guaranteed to go down in history - not for any piece of legislation, but for the arrogant way that it's dictated to the American people what's best for them, and for the ugly way in which it's gone about getting around the will of the people.

"Democrat leaders have made it perfectly clear that they view their constituents as an obstacle, particularly on the issue of health care.

"At every turn, they've met fierce public opposition. And every time, they've tried to come up with a way to get around it. It's become a vicious cycle. The harder Democrats try to get around the public, the more repellent their proposals become, and the more egregious their efforts become to get them through anyway.

"We watched last summer as they forced their partisan health care bill through the committees. We watched as they tried to sell it on the public as something other than what it was. We watched as they wrote the final bill behind closed doors, then wheeled and dealed to get the last few votes they needed to squeeze it through both chambers on a party-line vote.

"We saw the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator Aid, and all the rest. But as ugly as all this was - as distasteful as all these deals have been - they were child's play compared to the scheme they've been cooking up over in the House this week.

"The plan that Speaker Pelosi has hatched for getting this bill through is to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. And it's jaw-dropping in its audacity.

"Here's their plan. Speaker Pelosi can't get enough of her Democrat majority to vote for the Senate version of this bill. So she and her allies have concocted a way to pass it without actually casting a vote on it - the so-called "Slaughter Solution" in which the Senate bill is, quote, "deemed" to have passed. This way, they'll claim they never voted for it even though they'll vote to send it to the President for a signature.

"This 'scheme and deem' approach has never been tried on a bill of this scope, according to today's Washington Post.

"This is how they'll try to keep their fingerprints off a bill that forces taxpayers to cover the cost of abortions, that cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars, raises taxes by half a trillion dollars, raises insurance premiums, which creates a brand new government entitlement program at a time when the entitlement programs we have are on the verge of bankruptcy, and which vastly expands the cost and reach of the federal government in Washington at a time when most Americans think government is already too big.

"As Speaker Pelosi put it, 'Nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill.' But anyone who believes they can send this bill to the President without being tarred by it is delusional.

"Anybody who thinks this is a good strategy isn't thinking clearly. They're too close to the situation. They don't realize that this strategy is the only thing that they or this Congress will be remembered for. Anyone who endorses this strategy will be forever remembered for trying to claim they didn't vote for something they did. It will go down as one of the most extraordinary legislative sleights of hand in history.

"Make no mistake, this will be a career-defining and a Congress-defining vote.

"Most of the time the verdict of history is hard to predict. In this case, it's not. Anyone who endorses this strategy will be remembered for it. On the other hand, anyone who decides in a moment of clarity that they shouldn't, that they should resist this strategy, will be remembered for standing up to a party leadership that lost its way.

"Democrat leaders continue to advance the false argument that this effort is somehow akin to certain legislative efforts of the past. There is no comparison. First of all, the good programs they're referring to were far more modest. They enjoyed broad support from both parties in Congress. Most importantly, they enjoyed the broad support of the people.

"By contrast, there is no bipartisan consensus about this bill in Congress. It aims to reshape no less than one sixth of our entire economy at a moment when our economy is already suffering and our existing debts threaten to drown us in a sea of red ink.

"Most importantly, Americans overwhelming oppose it. And if you need any evidence of that, look no further than today's Washington Post, which calls this process unseemly. Or the Cincinnati Enquirer, which calls it 'disgusting.' And look no further than the President's own pollster, who's telling the White House that the chicanery that Democrats have used to advance this measure is a serious problem.

"This entire effort has been a travesty. But the latest solution to give House members a way out, by telling them they can pretend they didn't vote for something they will in fact be voting for has sealed its fate. It's time for rank-and-file Democrats to pull the fire alarm and save the American people from this latest scheme and this unpopular bill.

"The process has been tainted. It's time to end this vicious cycle, start over, cleanse the process, and work on the step-by-step reforms the American people really want. It's time to recognize that constituents are not obstacles to overcome with schemes and sweetheart deals. Fortunately, it's not too late.

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Democrats predict they’ll have the votes to pass the health care overhaul before the President leaves for Asia on Sunday.

Where do you stand on the health care debate?  Let me know your thoughts.

 
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Neil Middleton
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