This was on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating H.R. 3962, a major health care bill. Before the House considers most significant measures, it first must approve a rule for the legislation. The rule for H.R. 3962 allowed almost no amendments to be offered. These restrictions on amendments and more importantly the substance of the legislation itself were cited by the Republican minority as the reason for opposing the rule.
Rep. Posey (R-FL) objected to what he called “the lack of transparency about what it is specifically that we are voting on.” He argued “that when the Congress considers changes of this magnitude which will affect 17 percent of our entire economy, we should have more transparency and openness . . . Over 200 amendments were filed to this 2,000-page bill. Sadly, out of these 200 amendments, only 1 is allowed to be offered.”
Supporters of the rule and the legislation argued, among other things, that all Americans should be entitled to adequate health care insurance coverage regardless of their economic or health condition, and that the bill would guarantee that they get that coverage. Rep. Matsui said it “achieves a long-held goal of reforming our health insurance system so that it works for all American families.” She claimed that, among other things, it “strengthens Medicare . . . (and) makes health insurance affordable again for businesses who want to provide coverage to their employees and for those who are buying coverage for the first time on their own . . . .” Matsui also claimed that “the provisions of this legislation build on all that is good in our current health system to strengthen it for the future.”
Rep. Slaughter (D-NY), another supporter of the rule and the bill, said that: “(S)ince 2000, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums for American families have more than doubled . . . If we do nothing, as my Republican friends want to do, family premiums will increase an average of $1,800 every year and the number of uninsured will reach 61 million people by 2020.”
Opponents countered that the bill would prove to be too costly, ultimately raise insurance premiums, mandate an inappropriate tax increase, reduce Medicare benefits, and give the federal government too large a role in individual health care decisions. Rep. Sessions (R-TX), summarized its provisions as being “about a massive tax increase . . . (and) deep Medicare cuts . . . . “ He claimed that, as a result of its passage, “millions of jobs will be lost . . . mandates for purchasing insurance will cost an incredible $1.2 trillion, and there will be 118 new Federal bureaucracies created . . . .” Sessions also suggested that private insurance companies, and not the federal government, “can best take care of the health care for our country.”
Rep. Bishop (R-Utah), another opponent, added that its impact “would be a permanent shift of power to the federal government to control our daily lives and our health care decisions.”
The rule was approved by a vote of 242-192. All two hundred and forty-two “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Fifteen other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-seven Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin debate on major health care legislation.