The splintered House Democratic Caucus that limped through the final days of the last Congress emerged to begin the new one fiercely unified, at least to start, accusing Republicans of hypocritical theater for pushing a health care repeal bill with no amendments and limited debate.
The near-unanimous denunciations of the GOP’s handling of the health care repeal bill, and the Republicans’ package of proposed rules giving them significant budgetary leeway, were a marked difference from the 111th Congress, when moderates and liberals rarely got on the same page.
Noting that the Senate has already made it clear that it will not take up the repeal bill, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said: “This repeal of health care by the Republicans is political theater. It is a Kabuki dance. ... The fact of the matter is, we’re not going to repeal health care. It is not going to happen.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, also dismissed the GOP’s health care reform efforts since much of the Republican health care agenda already is part of the law.
“This is something that we have already,” the Texas Democrat said, “but I guess this is an exercise we’ll be doing soon.”
Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen argued that the GOP’s rules package — which would not count potential deficit increases as a result of repealing the health care law, among other provisions — is the “kind of flimflam ... the American people came to expect the last time the Republicans were in charge.”
“They told the American people that they’d listened and learned, but in the rules package we’re going to see tomorrow, it’s going to be very clear that it’s back to the same old games,” the Maryland Democrat added.
House Democratic leaders were no less critical even as they were calling for bipartisan work on jobs creation, tax reform and other economic matters.
For instance, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that while Democrats will oppose Republicans in a number of cases, they “do not intend to do so gratuitously. We intend to do so constructively.”
But the Maryland Democrat quickly pivoted into a fighting stance, accusing Republicans of immediately abandoning their campaign pledges to change the culture of the House.
Pointing to the GOP’s refusal to allow amendments to the health care repeal bill, Hoyer charged that while such a decision is “not inconsistent with past practice, [it is] certainly not consistent with the representation of open rules, transparency and allowing other points of view to be expressed here in the House.”
Even Senate Democrats were getting into the act, with Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), charging that the GOP is “laying the groundwork for Republicans’ extremist agenda of shutting down the government, raising taxes on small businesses and telling seniors they’re on their own by reopening the Medicare doughnut hole.”