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Republicans Put Forth a Closed Rule for Repealing Health Care Reform

January 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House Republican majority gets started in earnest today on their push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On the schedule for today in the House is the rule that will set the procedural framework for next week’s votes on H.R.2, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Act” and its counterpart H.Res.9, “instructing certain committees to report legislation replacing the job-killing health care law.” This is the first rule on significant legislation that the new Republican majority is bringing to a vote, but, contrary to their pledge to be more open about committee action and amendments, they are using a closed rule that is more restrictive than most and skipping committee action entirely.

The rule does not allow any votes on the 30 amendments that Democrats submitted to the Rules Committee. The only amendment that will be in order is one from Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor [R, VA-7]. It’s the only amendment that was offered by a Republican, but we don’t even know what it does because it has not been made publicly available on the Rules Committee site or elsewhere (I have a Twitter request in with Cantor for the text). The Cantor amendment won’t even be given its own vote. Under the rule it will be deemed passed if the rule itself is passed.

The health care repeal bill has also not gone through the normal committee process, which is where most of the true debate and work in the legislative process usually takes place. The Republican leadership is discharging the bill from committee and bringing it straight to the floor. While the rule will allow for 7 hours of floor debate on the repeal, without allowing any amendment votes, it’s virtually guaranteed that those 7 hours will be used for C-Span friendly political speeches, not real debate.

The bill is also in direct violation of the Republicans’ new deficit-cutting rule that requires all legislation that would add to the deficit to be offset by spending cuts. The repeal has been estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, but because the Republicans included an exemption for the costs of the health care repeal bill in their rules package, they won’t have to offset the $230 billion in deficit costs.

So, why are the Republicans bringing up their first substantial bill in a way that contradicts so many of their pledges and perpetuates the stus quo? Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier [R, CA-26] told The Hill that they’re using a closed rule because “elections have consequences” and they have promised an up-or-down vote on the repeal. The other consequence of the election, however, is that the Republicans are now the governing majority and they’re going to be held accountable for implementing their campaign-trail promises. So far they haven’t hit their stride on being more open and transparent in how they conduct business in the House.

Rep. Dreier is picture above.

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