This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington - Courtesy of the Office of the Republican Whip
November 12, 2009
Despite overwhelming public opposition and an impromptu 15,000-person rally on the Capitol Steps, Democrats pushed forward and passed their massive health care reform through the House late last Saturday night by a vote of 220-215. While ramming it through, Speaker Pelosi’s nearly $1.3 trillion government-takeover of health care was met with wide bipartisan opposition on the House floor. Thirty-nine Democrats, from across the country, bucked Speaker Pelosi’s strong-armed tactics and joined with Republicans to oppose the government-run health care plan. See here for GOP reaction to the Democrats’ sweeping health reform legislation.The GOP has a better plan for health reform. The GOP plan focuses on across state line purchasing, codifying the Hyde Language prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortion, makes Health Savings Accounts more attractive and accessible, implements strong medical liability reforms and provides a state innovation program that would reward states for providing effective health care programs and services and it also reduces the debt! But don’t take my word for it. The plan has some unlikely fans; The New York Times, DC Examiner, LA Times and Detroit News all wrote stories favorable to the Republican Plan. You can see those stories here and more on the GOP Plan here. The Republican Substitute failed by a margin of 176-258.

Before the final vote on Saturday night, Republican Whip Eric Cantor introduced the Republican Motion to Recommit (MTR) that would have amended the Democrats’ bill to add medical liability reform provisions. The MTR would use its $53 billion in savings to preserve seniors' access to Medicare Advantage and protect seniors’ access to necessary care, while also addressing payment inequities and geographic variations in Medicare that hurts seniors. The Pelosi government take-over of health care cuts more than $500 billion from Medicare, leaving seniors with reduced benefits and fewer choices. At the same time, the Pelosi bill protects trial lawyers by avoiding real medical liability reform. The Republican motion to recommit offered a choice on whom to protect: seniors or trial lawyers. Democrats chose poorly. The MTR failed by a vote of 187-247.

Over the past few weeks, House Democratic leaders have struggled with the abortion issue. Their original bill included government funding for abortions. After many hours of negotiations, an amendment by Reps.Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) that prohibits federal funding of abortions was finally allowed to be voted on the House floor. The amendment passed 240-194.

Moving forward, one of the central questions is whether the Stupak-Pitts language will be included in the final bill. Despite their promises during debate, many leading House Democrats now say that the pro-life amendment will likely be stripped from the legislation before final passage, enraging pro-life members of Congress in both chambers. This will be a key issue as attention now turns to the Senate. Majority Leader Reid has promised to begin debate on his health care legislation next week, but no one has seen his bill yet. Debate is expected to continue for at least a few weeks and many issues remain outstanding. The Obama Administration is pushing to have health care reform done by the end of the year so I will continue to keep you posted.

Finally, we are approaching the end of a very special week. Monday, November 9th marked the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Wednesday was Veterans Day. Having both occasions occur in the same week is fitting because it is our nation’s great veterans who provide us with the freedoms that so many of us take for granted. Twenty years ago this week, we were able to see firsthand the great gift of freedom and how it touched the world when the Wall fell. I hope you take a few moments this week to remember how lucky we are to live in such a great country and thank a veteran for the incredible gift of freedom and security that they provide.


Items of Interest:

1. November/December Schedule – Majority Leader Hoyer released the schedule for the rest of the year and it’s not pretty. Congress will return next week, and then following Thanksgiving we will be in session every week possible until the 22nd of December. You can see the full schedule here.

2. Weekly Waste Watch: Week 25 – Connecticut Spends $1.3 Million in Stimulus Money for Archaeological Surveys of Man Made Lakes. This week we highlight the fact that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is spending $1.3 million in Stimulus funds to conduct “archaeological surveys” and perform maintenance on two man-made lakes in eastern Connecticut. See the full waste watch here.

Articles of the Week:

1. Jobs a low priority for Democrats – By Nolan Finley – The Detroit News – 11/8/09 –Americans are angry with Washington as much for what it isn't doing as what it is. What it isn't doing the most is paying attention to the still-raging economic disaster. Last week's job numbers show unemployment nationally bumping past 10 percent and surpassing 15 percent in Michigan. Unemployment keeps climbing, even though President Barack Obama and Congress nine months ago committed $787 billion to creating jobs. Read full article here.

2. All Eyes on Sen. Harry Reid – By Carrie Budoff Brown and Manu Raju – The Politico – 11/8/09 –As health reform shifts back to the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid is facing dissent from fellow Democrats worried that he has no final bill, no Democratic consensus on the way ahead and no guarantee he’ll finish by year’s end. Read full article here.

3. GOP Gains Edge on Economy – By John D. McKinnon – The Wall Street Journal – 11/3/2009 - If it’s the economy, stupid, Republicans have the edge, at least for now. And that message isn’t coming from the GOP. New research from Democracy Corps says Republicans are getting the better of the debate on the economy in 60 battleground congressional districts – a problem for Democrats as the 2010 midterm elections begin to come into focus. Democracy Corps, founded by Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville, conducts political research aimed at sharpening Democrats’ messaging on key issues. Read the full article here.


Jeff J. Burton Office of the Republican Whip Rep. Eric Cantor 202-225-0197