Hoyer Defends Democrats’ Health Care Bill Strategy

Posted March 16, 2010 at 12:32pm

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday pushed back hard against Republican attacks on the majority’s possible strategy for approving health care reform without a separate vote on the Senate-passed package.

House Republicans are railing against the scheme as an undemocratic and even unconstitutional sleight of hand designed to spare Democrats a tough vote on the politically dicey Senate measure. The minority is drafting a resolution to force an up-or-down vote this week on the use of the maneuver. But Hoyer, noting that Democrats have not yet settled on a process for moving their package, defended the “deem-and-pass” option as an established route used more frequently by Republicans than Democrats.

“We’re playing it straight,” the Majority Leader said, adding that the procedure “is consistent with the rules, consistent with former practice, and, in my opinion, consistent with having Members express themselves on the Senate bill as amended by reconciliation.”

Hoyer argued that the American public isn’t interested in the process lawmakers use for approving reforms but rather the reforms themselves, and he made the case that the package has received a more transparent and thorough vetting “than almost any bill that I can think of in my 30 years in the Congress of the United States.”

Hoyer said leaders are still in the process of finalizing the language in the reconciliation package, work he said he hopes will wrap up Tuesday. And he declined to offer a detailed snapshot of the level of Democratic support for the measure.

“The votes are close, people are concerned, it’s controversial,” he said. “Every member of our Caucus wants to vote for a health care reform bill. That does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that every one of them will. This is a big bill with a lot of provisions, and there are obviously concerns within the framework of the bill. So in that context, we’re talking to every member and our expectation is when we bring this bill to the floor we will have the votes for it.”