Channeling growing House Democratic anger at Senate intransigence, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday declared the process in the opposite chamber broken and said it cannot stand.
Its one thing to have a considered process. Its another thing to have a broken process, Hoyer said in a speech at the National Press Club. Many of us believe the Senate process is broken, and when I say many of us, I speak for many Members of the United States Senate as well.
Hoyers remarks come as Congressional Democratic leaders struggle to revive their health care overhaul, which was dealt a crippling blow after Republicans captured the late Sen. Edward Kennedys (D-Mass.) seat in a special election last week. Party activists have fumed since about the imperilment of their top domestic priority despite Democrats continued hold on a wide majority in the chamber. Republican Scott Browns victory gives the GOP 41 Senate seats, ending the Democrats 60-vote supermajority.
Hoyer in his speech outlined four options for health care reform, including the possibility of not passing a bill at all. The others: moving a significantly scaled-down bill, clearing the Senate version through the House as-is or moving a fixes package through both chambers that bridges differences such as affordability and funding.
All of these choices have pluses and minuses, Hoyer said. Democratic leaders have taken time to talk to our Members about what theyre hearing from their constituents and to digest with some clarity the message that voters in Massachusetts were sending. So there are no easy choices.
The problem with simply peeling off the most popular items in the bill and passing them separately an approach advocated by some House Democrats is that much of the bill is an integrated whole, Hoyer said. That is to say, to accomplish the objectives, you need to both include many more people in coverage under insurance, spread the risk, bring down costs for individuals, at the same time you affect reforms.
The Maryland Democrat said, however, that the approach is not impossible, pointing to some pieces of the package that could be passed separately, including a more limited version of an insurance exchange, the repeal of the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies and smaller steps to improve the affordability of coverage.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.