This was a vote on a resolution outlining the terms for floor debate on a bill repealing the health insurance industry's exemption from antitrust regulations. A law enacted in 1945 law shielded the industry from such regulations, and left the state to police anti-competitive behavior.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) argued the bill would repeal an indefensible antitrust exemption: "Even though the broader effort to pass the final health care bill is underway, we have an opportunity today to make a simple, straightforward statement about how we think health insurance should operate in this country. By repealing this unjustifiable exemption, we will enable--this is very important. People do not understand that during the last 60 years the Justice Department has not been able to enforce anything against them because they were exempt. This will enable the Justice Department to begin aggressively enforcing the laws that protect the consumers against the cartel of health insurance who wield such outsized influence in the health care industry."
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) argued the insurance industry should be held to the same standard as any other industry: "Mr. Speaker, during this health care debate over the last 6 months, we have heard we should listen to our constituents. And you know, I did. I did 14 town halls in August, and they were attended by over 8,000 people. And there was one item of agreement between the extremes in the debate, between the folks representing the tea party and those representing single payer, and that was consensus that this industry, the health insurance industry, should not enjoy a special exemption under the law. They should not be able to collude to drive up prices, limit competition, price gouge consumers. They should play by the same rules as every other industry in America. And this archaic exemption from antitrust law passed in the 1940s should go to the dustbin of history. There was consensus on that. Now come the Republicans, oh, wait a minute, we are not protecting the industry, we don't want to allow them to still have antitrust exemption, it is about the little guys. It is always about the little guys, isn't it? So let's give the little guys a loophole. And oops, wait a minute, the big guys can use the same loophole."
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) questioned the Democrats' timing in bringing the bill to the floor: "It is hard to understand what is the sudden rush. Yesterday, the gentlewoman from New York said we have waited 60 years to get this bill; today, she says this is long overdue. But she doesn't point out that in all that period of time, the Democrats have been in charge of Congress except for 2 years in the fifties during the Eisenhower administration and the years 1995 to 2006. So why didn't they get it passed when they were in control before? Why have they been waiting 60 years to get it done?"
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) criticized the Democratic majority for prohibiting amendments to the bill: "Last year, we set a record. For the first time in the 220-, almost 221-year history of the Republic, we went through a year without a single rule that allowed for an open debate. In fact, since my California colleague, Ms. Pelosi, has been Speaker of the House, we've gone through now a 3-year period. In that 3-year period of time, save the appropriations process, we have had a grand total of one bill considered under an open rule.”
The House agreed to the resolution by a vote of 238-181. 238 Democrats voted "yea." 171 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House proceeded to floor debate on legislation repealing the health insurance industry's exemption from antitrust regulations.