By Connie Hair
House Democrats passed the 2,032-page Pelosicare bill on a near party-line vote Saturday night 220-215 (roll call here). The only Republican voting in favor of the measure was New Orleans-based Joseph Cao who has long ago proven to be a tax and spend (and spend and spend) liberal.
After a week of intense arm twisting, threats and promises from party leaders, more than half of the 52 so-called conservative Blue Dog Democrats voted in favor of the over $1.3 trillion measure. These are the 28 Blue Dogs voting in favor of Pelosicare (who apparently fear the wrath of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more than the will of their own constituents):
Mike Arcuri (N.Y.)
Joe Baca (Calif.)
Marion Berry (Ark.)
Sanford Bishop (Ga.)
Leonard Boswell (Iowa)
Dennis Cardoza (Calif.)
Christopher Carney (Penn.)
Jim Cooper (Tenn.)
Jim Costa (Calif.)
Henry Cuellar (Texas)
Kathy Dahlkemper (Penn.)
Joe Donnelly (Ind.)
Brad Ellsworth (Ind.)
Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.)
Jane Harman (Calif)
Baron Hill (Ind.)
Mike Michaud (Maine)
Harry Mitchell (Ariz.)
Dennis Moore (Kan.)
Patrick Murphy (Penn.)
Earl Pomeroy (N.D.)
John Salazar (Colo.)
Loretta Sanchez (Calif.)
Adam Schiff (Calif.)
David Scott (Ga.)
Zack Space (Ohio)
Mike Thompson (Calif.)
Charles Wilson (Ohio)
The bill these “fiscal conservatives” voted in favor of on Saturday includes over $730 billion in job-killing taxes, the majority of those taxes shouldered by the small businesses — those which in lesser-taxed times, created the most new jobs. The bill also taxes premium health insurance plans enjoyed by most union members.
Pelosicare as passed by the House Saturday also still includes one-half trillion dollars in cuts from Medicare and builds the infrastructure to ration health care based on age and cost. This is one of the major reasons CBO scored the bill as a money saver. But the Medicare cuts are probably illusory, as they have been in the past. Congress just won’t cut these benefits, though they talk about it almost every year.
Pelosi carved the costly “doc fix” measure out of the bill to intentionally manipulate the Congressional Budget (CBO) system and keep the perceived cost of the bill down. The actual cost of Pelosicare rises to $1.6 trillion when you include “doc fix” which is an attempt to fix the underpayment of doctors currently driving them out of participation in the Medicare system.
Never before in history has a government-run medical program been in line with its initial cost estimate. Quite the contrary.
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), historical cost estimates for government health care programs have been extremely unreliable. In 1967, when Congress was first considering passage of Medicare, the original estimate of the cost for the entire Medicare program by the year 1990 was $12 billion. The actual cost was over $111 billion, nearly 10 times the original estimate. In 1987, Congress estimated Medicaid’s share of hospital payments to states to be $1 billion by the year 1992. The actual cost was $17 billion which was 17 times the original estimate just five years earlier.
The JCT is nonpartisan committee with a staff of Ph.D. economists, attorneys, and accountants, who assist members of both parties in both houses of Congress on tax legislation.
None of this information is new to any of the Blue Dog Democrats. When George W. Bush was in office, the Blue Dogs each had signs in the hallway outside of their office suite door that kept a running tally of what the deficit was costing each individual American. You don’t see any of those signs in the hallways outside of the House office buildings anymore. It would appear the Blue Dogs have no problems adding trillions of dollars more to the deficit as long as the out-of-control spending is done by Democrats.
No Guarantees Pro-Life Amendment Will Remain in Final Bill
The Stupak-Pitts Amendment (pro-life amendment), which codified a ban on federal funding of abortion into Pelosicare, passed the House by a vote of 240-193.
The Hyde Amendment has served for decades as the law of the land, barring federal funding of abortion by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) through Medicaid. The Hyde Amendment must be renewed every year in the DHHS appropriations bill.
As Republicans have warned all along, the Hyde Amendment did not cover federal funding in the Pelosicare bill. Some pro-life Democrats agreed and insisted on a vote on this amendment, threatening to vote against the underlying bill unless Pelosi allowed this amendment to come to a floor vote.
Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) voted “present” on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment in a protest vote, pointing out that the passage of the amendment would facilitate the passage of the entire bill. None of the chairmen of the three House committees of jurisdiction would commit to inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts pro-life amendment in the final conference report that would merge the House and Senate bills, should the Senate vote to pass a health care bill.
In other words, Pelosi is likely to instruct the chairmen to chuck the amendment in conference.
That conference report would then have to pass both the House and the Senate. The left-wing loony “Progressive Caucus” has threatened to vote against final passage if the amendment is included in the conference report. Its non-inclusion in the final report threatens the votes of the 64 Democrats who voted in favor of Stupak-Pitts.
Other Saturday Health Care Votes
The Republicans were allowed to offer an alternative bill for a vote which failed 176-258.
The Republicans also offered a Motion to Recommit (MTR) which sends the whole bill back to the committees with instructions to make certain changes. The MTR added medical liability lawsuit reforms and created a “Seniors Protection and Medicare Regional Payment Equity Fund” with the estimated $54 billion in savings from junk lawsuit reform. That fund was allocated to help protect seniors from some of the more drastic measures in the nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare included in the Pelosicare bill.
In offering this MTR, Republicans forced Democrats to go on record in a vote choosing their high-dollar donor, trial lawyer special interest groups over seniors. The MTR was defeated by Democrats 187-247.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in serious re-election trouble of his own, has indicated that any Senate health care bill is unlikely to be addressed until at least January.
Cartoon by Brett Noel.