After winning the House in the November midterms, Republicans — who have long complained about Democratic stewardship of the lower chamber — promised to run the House in an open and transparent process, allowing the minority party to offer amendments on legislation and permitting time for fair debate. But as Democrats now prepare to offer counter amendments to the GOP’s health care repeal bills, the GOP is walking back its pledge. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported yesterday, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is suggesting “that the GOP will not allow what’s known as an ‘open rule’” which would allow Democrats to introduce a series of potentially embarrassing amendments. “It’s a straightforward document,” Cantor said of the legislation that would repeal the largest reform of America’s health care system. “It reflect what most people inside the beltway and outside the beltway want.”
But ironically, the procedural move also contradicts what Republicans wanted from Democrats throughout the health care debate. When the House first passed reform in November 2009 and then again in March 2010, Republicans insisted that they should be able to offer unlimited amendments to the legislation on the House floor and argued that all parts of the bill must first be debated in the appropriate committees of jurisdiction — which the GOP’s repeal bills would bypass:
- REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): “I ask each of you to vow to never let this happen again. This process, this defiance of our citizens. It’s not too late to begin to restore the bonds of trust with our nation and return comity to this institution.”
- REP. DAVE CAMP (R-MI): “And the Physician Payment Bill…that legislation has not been through the Committee on Ways and Means, we had not had an opportunity to review that in open hearing in committee, to offer amendments, to go through it line by line...so this is legislation that’s coming straight to the floor.”
- REP. JOE BARTON (R-TX): “This is a process that corrupts and prostitutes the system…We are about to unleash a cultural war in this country if we use this process and don’t allow the legitimate differences to be debated and hopefully moderated and compromised…. I mean, officially, I’m asking for an open rule.”
- REP. DAVID DREIER (R-CA): “Yes, we will be actually having a vote today. But without an open debate, the opportunity for amendments, or the chance to fully analyze the legislation we still don’t have full transparency or accountability.”
Watch a compilation:
Dreier — the incoming chairman of the Rules Committee — defended the GOP’s strategy last night on Fox News’ On The Record. Challenged by host Greta Van Susteren, “And so what’s the story? You promised that there would amendments to the rules, and right out of the box, you’re not doing it,” Dreier insisting that the bill was just one sentence long. “Greta, let me just tell you the commitment that was made. The commitment was made that we would repeal the job-killing health care bill,” he said. Watch that exchange here.