This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington - Courtesy of the Office of Republican Whip Eric Cantor

March 19, 2010

It appears we are finally approaching the endgame for health care. The last couple weeks have been very busy here in Washington with all the action surrounding what the Democrats are going to do with their never ending desire to expand government, but passage is far from certain. We currently expect the House to vote sometime Sunday afternoon.

The battle currently lies in the House where Democrats are pulling every trick out of their bag in a last ditch effort to pass their takeover of our health care system. Their new bill, a hybrid of the Senate passed health care legislation, costs $1.2 trillion and contains more than $500 billion in tax hikes. For more information on the bill, Republican Leader John Boehner put together a handy memo titled  Ten Facts Every American Should Know About Democrats’ Final Government Takeover of Health Care.” In their effort to pass the legislation, Democrats have decided to use a policy maneuver known as Reconciliation and make it so that the House doesn’t even officially vote on the Senate passed bill. Republicans on the Rules Committee have a great synopsis of the process here. It’s very confusing, but you will find more of an explanation in Items of Interest below, including a quote from then-Senator Obama saying Reconciliation is not the place for policy changes.

News reports spread every day with more House Democrats saying “NO” to their leaders plans for passing the massive government takeover of Health Care. But I could talk about health care all day. More on the Reconciliation process, vote counts, democratic targets and what Republicans are doing to try to stop this bill below in Items of Interest.

In other news, last Thursday House Republicans took a huge step toward regaining the mantle of fiscal responsibility by enacting a unilateral Earmark Moratorium. The ban, which passed by a voice vote of the Republican Members, would affect all earmarks. Republicans are hopeful that this will show House Democrats and the American people how serious they are about the fiscal crisis we currently face. Visit here to see a press conference immediately after the vote and here for press related to the ban, more comments from Republican leaders and the text of the ban itself.

In other fiscal news, House Republican Leader John Boehner and Senate Republican LeaderMitch McConnell named their members to the President’s Deficit Commission. Republicans in the House will be represented by Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI), Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) while Republicans in the Senate will be represented by Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Tom Coburn (R-OK). The leaders are still (rightly)concerned that the commission will do little to actually curb the deficit since the results will be non-binding and won’t even be announced until after the November elections. Time will tell.

It’s been an interesting couple weeks ethics wise for House Democrats. That swamp thatSpeaker Pelosi promised to drain is currently full with a bunch of her members. First, now-former Ways & Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was forced to step aside from his post after he was admonished by the House Ethics Committee for taking numerous improperly funded trips to the Caribbean. Speaker Pelosi initially defended Mr. Rangel, but an outcry from some of her members forced her to make a change. Many believe this is just the first domino to fall as Mr. Rangel is under investigation for numerous other transgressions. More on Mr. Rangel here.

And then there’s now-former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY). Questions still remain about what Democratic Leaders knew and when they knew it. I expect more information to come out in the coming weeks and that’s all I’m going to say about that…

Much more information on health care in Items of Interest and Articles of Interest below.


Items of Interest:

1. Reconciliation – The Slaughter Solution – Democrats are trying to ram their health care plan through the House and Senate using Reconciliation. Reconciliation is a budgetary process that allows for little debate and only requires 51 votes in the Senate to pass. It still requires a regular majority in the House and with a few current open seats, Democrats need 216 votes to pass health care through the house. President Obama is pushing the Reconciliation process despite saying on 12/20/05, “Under The Rules, The Reconciliation Process Does Not Permit That Debate. Reconciliation Is Therefore The Wrong Place For Policy Changes ... In Short, The Reconciliation Process Appears To Have Lost Its Proper Meaning. A Vehicle Designed For Deficit Reduction And Fiscal Responsibility Has Been Hijacked...”(Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S .14150, 12/20/05). So much for consistency.

In order to pass it through the House, Democrats are creating “The Slaughter Solution." The Slaughter Solution, named after House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), would bypass regular order and allow the democrats to avoid actually voting on the senate passed health care bill. Instead the Rule for debating the bill would “deem” the senate bill as passed. You can find a good explanation of what “deeming” means in a memo prepared by Republicans on the Rules Committee and press reports on it here.

2. Cantor Resolution – In an effort to stop this blatant abuse of power, Republican Whip Eric Cantor on Thursday offered a Resolution denouncing the Democratic Leadership’s deceptive use of the "Slaughter Solution." You can find the text of the resolution here. Not surprisingly, Democratic leaders tabled the resolution by a vote of 232-181. Although 10 Democrats voted with Republicans to denounce their leadership for their use of the “Slaughter Solution” to deceive the American people.

3. Parker Griffith Resolution – earlier on Thursday, Republican Rep. Parker Griffith offered a resolution to require an up or down vote on the Senate Health Care bill. The resolution was defeated 222-203. More information on Rep. Griffith’s resolution here.

4. Target Memo’s & Vote Totals – With Republicans united in their opposition, there are two main groups of Democrats holding up the health care legislation. One is a group of pro-life democrats who object to the federal funding of abortions in the bill. The other consists of those democrats in marginal seats who are feeling immense political pressure to vote on a bill a vast majority of the American people oppose. Two memo’s will help explain these groups better and name some of the Democrats in each camp. The first, prepared by Republican Whip Eric Cantor, explains who is in each group and the second, prepared by Whip Cantor and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) highlights those House members and some overlying Senators who could have similar issues once the bill returns to the Senate.

5. Republican Address – the last two Republican Weekly Addresses have been delivered by new Republican Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL) and new Senator Scott Brown (R-MASS). You can see Rep. Griffith’s address here and Senator Brown’s address here.

Legislation to be Voted On:

Believe it or not, other legislation is being debated in the house. Below are a couple of the bills we expect:

1. H.R. 1586, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act would reauthorize the FAA through 2012 providing funding for an upgraded air traffic control system called ‘NextGen’. This legislation changes the process of labor negotiations between the FAA and air traffic controllers, changes regulations of certain FedEx employees, requires airlines and airports to develop contingency plans for stranded passengers and increases transportation fees and the jet fuel tax. It is likely that the House will also pass a short term extension of the current legislation.

 2. “Jobs” Bill – democrats are still working on legislation to supposedly create ‘jobs’. The circulating language talks of tax and COBRA extenders, and supposedly some help for small businesses. Unfortunately there is nothing of substance to report as of this moment.

Articles of Interest:

1. Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies 'Chaos' - Congress Daily – By Billy House – 3/8/2010 - House Speaker Pelosi's leadership of the House Democratic Caucus might not be in "chaos" -- as Minority Leader Boehner buoyantly sought to describe it last week -- but she certainly has hit a rough patch just as she is trying to scrape together votes for healthcare reform. Read the full article here.

 2. Twisting Path to 216 for Pelosi – Politico – By Patrick O’Connor – 3/17/2010 -Add a Kucinich, subtract a Kaptur. Every tough vote has its arithmetic, and health reform is no different. Get to 216, score a win. But to make it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to minimize the defections among “yes” votes and flip a few “no” votes. Read the full article here.

3. Obama Pitch: Fate of Presidency on the Line – Politico – By Glenn Thrush – 3/18/2010 - President Barack Obama had exhausted most of his health care reform arguments with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during a White House meeting last Thursday when he made a more personal pitch that resonated with many skeptics in the room. One caucus member told POLITICO that Obama won him over by “essentially [saying] that the fate of his presidency” hinged on this week’s health reform vote in the House. The member, who requested anonymity, likened Obama’s remarks to an earlier meeting with progressives when the president said a victory was necessary to keep him “strong” for the next three years of his term. Read the full article here.

4. Must Pass Bills Falter in Unpopular Congress as Democrats Blame Republicans – The Hill – By Alexander Bolton – 3/1/2010 – Failure to advance must-pass legislation has added to the Democrats’ problems when Congress is suffering from its lowest approval ratingsin years. Democrats claim they can blame Republican obstruction for the gridlock, but political experts and some Democratic allies say the majority party will also suffer because it controls Congress. To make matters worse, the stalled bills were expected to pass easily. Read the full article here.

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