California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Groundwork Being Laid for House Action on Reform Later This Week

On Monday, the House Budget Committee voted 21-16 to approve a legislative measure that sets the stage for changes to be made to the Senate health reform bill (HR 3590) through the budget reconciliation process, the New York Times' "Prescriptions" reports (Herszenhorn, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 3/15).

Two Democrats -- Reps. Allen Boyd (Fla.) and Chet Edwards (Texas) -- joined all Republicans on the panel in voting against the so-called "corrections" bill. Boyd and Edwards were among the Democrats who voted against the House reform bill (HR 3962) in November (Edney, CongressDaily, 3/16).

According to CQ HealthBeat, the Budget Committee's action is mainly procedural because the bill currently does not contain Democrats' current proposals for health reform.

Under the budget reconciliation rules, the committee is prohibited from amending the legislation. Instead, the bill serves as a "shell" for changes that House and Senate Democrats have negotiated to the Senate bill.

Votes on Motions

Although the Budget Committee was prohibited from amending the legislation, panel members were allowed to offer non-binding motions that direct the House Rules Committee on changes to the measure. During Monday's mark-up session, the Budget Committee voted:

  • 19-17 to reject a motion by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to instruct the Rules Committee to move to restore House-passed language on federal funding for abortion services, which is more restrictive than in the Senate-passed bill;
  • 17-21 to reject a motion by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to request an amendment that would prevent Medicare cuts from being used to offset or fund a new entitlement program, cut new government spending in the legislation by that amount and allocate the Medicare savings to the Medicare program;
  • 25-11 to adopt a motion by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) to request an amendment that would bar annual and lifetime limits on the amount of care covered by insurance; and
  • By voice vote to adopt a motion by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) to request an amendment that would stop insurers' discrimination practices against consumers with pre-existing conditions (Ethridge/Vadala, CQ HealthBeat, 3/15).

Next Steps for Action

The Rules Committee must wait 48 hours after Monday's vote until it can act on the legislation.

A House Democratic aide said the Rules Committee could convene the session on Thursday. The committee is then expected to replace its language with the negotiated changes and a rule that would declare the Senate bill passed after the full House has approved the bill, which is known as a "self-executing rule" or "deem and pass" process. Such a process would allow the House to pass the Senate reform bill without actually voting on it (CongressDaily, 3/16).

Under the Democrats' plan, the Senate would then approve the corrections bill -- which would make changes to the Senate bill before both measures take effect -- through budget reconciliation, allowing it to be passed with a simple majority and avoid a GOP filibuster (California Healthline, 3/15).

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