Thursday, January 6, 2011


Some things change and some things don't. Yesterday the first six votes of the 112th Congress were cast. The constant change, that doesn't matter a whit, is that the majority party is always reported by Thomas in Roman typeface while the minority appears italicized. Independents remain underlined. This appears to be one thing about which the parties choose not to make a fuss.

Roll Call # 1 was the Call to Quorum of the 112th Congress. If, in the next two years, you get lost in your research and can't recall whether the Member who introduced such and such a bill is a Republican or Democrat then you can go back to Roll Call # 1, or you can check and see if on a recorded vote if they appeared in Roman or italics. There are supposed to be 435 Members of the House of Representatives, Roll Call # 1 counted only 434 with all Members voting.

Roll Call # 2 was the election of the Speaker. Then came four votes on the Rules Package H. Res. 5. The tables are turned and it is now the Democrats role to offer the dilatory motions. That's another constant change, that doesn't matter a whit. The minority party is perpetually opposing everything the majority does.

The Rules Package, do however matter. The Republicans have made available a section by section analysis of the changes to the Rules Package, through the Rules Committee website at:

The Republicans have gutted the long standing statutory PAYGO provisions with the more trendy sounding CUTGO rules. Under these rules any bill that has the effect of increasing net spending must be accompanied by cuts in other spending.  But tax cuts don't apply in the equation. 

That sounds budget neutral, but it ain't! The first breach of the Republican's Rules Package by the Republicans will come with their pretending to repeal Health Care Reform. Repealing that law will have the effect of increasing the deficit by more than $100 billion in the next ten years, and by increasing the deficit by more than $1 trillion dollars over the next two decades. And the cut required to offset this increased spending is zero. The Republicans break their promise with the first bill up.

Speaking of the first bill up, it looks to be Virginia Republican Eric Cantor's H.R. 2. The official title of that bill is "To repeal the job-killing health care law and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010."

Whatever else you may think about the effect of having everyone in the United States covered by Health Insurance you know that it is creating a lot of jobs. You can read the full text of Representative Cantor's bill at The bill is also available at:

Democrats have offered nine amendments to Cantor's bill. Arizona's Raul Grijalva wants to keep changes to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, a law not updated since 1992.

Texas' Sheila Jackson-Lee offered 3 amendments, although her second amendment appears to be a revision of her first. She proposes to prohibit repealing Section 2 unless the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) certify that repeal will not reduce Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse prevention. Her second revised amendment adds the qualifier that OMB and CBO will certify that it will preserve the number and funding of community health centers. Her final proposed amendment prohibits repeal of Section 2 unless OMB and CBO certify that repeal will not increase insurance rates.

Wisconsin's Gwen Moore proposed two amendments. The first preserves expansion of eligibility for Medicaid for individuals under the age of 65 with income up to 133 percent FPL (federal poverty level). This amendments preserves the increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for the States, helping them finance coverage for the newly eligible population. Moore's second amendment is similar to Jackson-Lee's third amendment. This amendment preserves the ban on higher premium charges based on gender, health status, or occupation (only allowing for regulated premium variations based on age and tobacco use).

New York's Jerrold Nadler suggests two amendments. They should seriously print his amendments with pink ink. Nadler wants to make sure that women over the age of 40 have access to screening mammograms and that women who are at high risk of breast cancer have access to screening MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). Nadler's second amendment requires OMB, in consultation with CBO, to certify to Congress that the repeal of the health care law will not reduce the affordability of, or access to, breast cancer screening and prevention, including mammography and MRIs.

Eighteen Democrats offered the final amendment, they are Massachusetts' John Tierney, Ohio's Dennis Kucinich, Michigan's John Conyers, New York's Maurice Hinchey Illinois' Jesse Jackson Jr. Minnesota's Keith Ellison, Hawaii's Mazie Hirono, New York's Gregory Meeks, Massachusetts' John Olver, Ohio's Betty Sutton, Maryland's Chris Van Hollen, New York's Paul Tonko, Arizona's Raul Grijalva Massachusetts' Niki Tsongas, Pennsylvania's Mike Doyle, Maine's Chellie Pingree, Texas' Silvestre Reyes, and New York's Yvette Clarke.

Their amendment preserves the medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement as set forth through the Affordable Care Act which requires insurance companies in the individual and small group markets to spend at least 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect on medical care and quality improvement activities and insurance companies in the large group market must spend at least 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement activities.

When watching the 112th Congress don't forget to follow the money. The Center for Responsive Politics' reports that new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got a lot of money from insurance companies and health professionals, those who stand to lose a large chunk of change with Health Care Reform.  In fact these two groups were two of Cantor's largest contributors by industry classification. For Campaign 2010 the Insurance Industry gave Cantor $286,850 and Health Professionals gave him $228,750. See,

Eric Cantor, the best Majority Leader Money Can Buy.

The section in the Rules Package exempting Health Care Repeal says:

Exemptions. Subparagraphs (h)(1) through (7) authorize the Budget
Committee Chair, prior to the adoption of a budget resolution, to exempt from estimates the budgetary effects of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. It also exempts the budgetary effects of the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010. The budgetary effects of AMT relief, estate tax, trade agreements and small business tax relief are also exempted. The exemption is limited to measures which do not increase the deficit or revenues over the ten-year budget window, except for increases in revenue which meet certain specific criteria.

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