The House voted 231-184 to overturn a rule that would have given lawmakers almost free rein to introduce Medicare legislation in such a way that it could have effectively been used to stall the legislative process.
Led by House Democrats, the vote essentially stays provisions under the so-called 45% trigger that would have allowed any lawmaker to bring up a billor make amendments to an existing oneunder the guise of Medicare reform. Democratic leaders said they were worried that the special leeway provided under the rule, which was born out of the 2003 Medicare law, could be used to cause gridlock for the balance of the legislative sessions.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), speaking on the House floor, warned that the trigger provisions would allow anyone to disrupt the proceedings of the House, adding that the result could lead to chaos and extraordinary political gamesmanship.
The Medicare trigger, a relatively small provision in an otherwise massive bill, was put into place to prompt Bush administration action when the Medicare program started to spend more than it was taking in. When that happened last year, a funding warning was issued, forcing the White House to offer its own cost-containment legislative package in February.
While the White House reforms were given short shrift by the Democrat-led Congress, House Republicans have not shied away from offering their own proposals this year. During debate, many of them said that the rule to temporarily stay the 45% trigger would make it more difficult for them to bring up healthcare reform packages during the remainder of the session.
The resolution allows the congress to bury its head in the sand and kick the can down the road, letting a future congress deal with this ever-worsening problem, said Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) in a written statement.
But Democrats argued that the funding warning is moot since the newest Medicare bill, which became law earlier this month after a veto override, includes enough spending cuts to delay tripping the trigger. We have met the requirements, said Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.
Under terms of the rule, the Senate does not have to vote. -- by Matthew DoBias