Politics

Having Fun With the Health Care Bill Holdup

Hoyer needles McCarthy about delay in sending House bill to Senate

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer had some fun with Republican delays in transmitting their health care measure to the Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer had a little fun with his Republican colleagues’ delay in transmitting their health care overhaul legislation to the Senate.

“You can imagine my shock, chagrin and surprise when I learned yesterday that bill has not gone to the Senate. Apparently it’s gone from one chair to the other chair in the desks before me,” the Maryland Democrat needled House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in their colloquy on the floor Friday. He asked McCarthy if there would need to be another vote on the bill and when it will be sent to the Senate.

The holdup over sending the bill over, which the House passed on May 4 on a 217-213 vote, is because the Congressional Budget Office has not scored it. That is important because it will determine whether Republicans can continue to use the budget reconciliation process, which sidesteps Senate procedural hurdles like the filibuster but is stringent on how it affects the budget, taxes and spending. Without a CBO score, the Senate won’t take it up. 

McCarthy responded that he is “confident that this bill will hit the mark for reconciliation” and he has “all the confidence in the world that we’ll get the CBO score, meet the requirements and send it to the Senate.”

Hoyer seemed to relish the opportunity to tease his counterpart in floor managing. The back and forth was a more common component of Hoyer’s interaction years ago with Missouri Republican Roy Blunt before Blunt himself was transmitted to the Senate.

Sometimes McCarthy, a relatively sunny presence, engages Hoyer. Sometimes he just wants to get through the upcoming floor schedule announcements and bats down Hoyer’s questions — which wouldn’t be out of place in the British House of Commons’ Prime Minister’s questions, but are far less common in the more staid U.S. legislative branch. 

“It’s still within the bosom of the house, warmly embraced, aging, unfortunately not to perfection,” Hoyer said of the House bill. 

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden told Roll Call reports of the House needing to vote again on the American Health Care Act are “manufactured.” He did confirm the bill is being held in the House until there is a CBO estimate.

“We always were planning to wait for the CBO score. We fully anticipate being in compliance,” the Oregon Republican said. That was news to a lot of people on Capitol Hill. Democrats, and some Republicans, criticized the House for voting on a measure there was no cost estimate for. 

Speaker Paul D. Ryan told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday that the House was waiting on the CBO score out of “an abundance of caution” and there would not be a need for a re-vote. 

“What we’re doing is very, very, you know, it’s just a technical non-issue, is what it is,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation said Friday that they anticipate releasing the new estimate on Wednesday. The score, and where anticipated savings are expected to come from, will help determine the fate of the measure. 

Kellie Mejdrich, Lindsey McPherson and Jacob Holzman contributed to this story. 

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