This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to the budget resolution for fiscal year 2012.
The annual budget resolution is essentially a blueprint for all federal government spending. Budget resolutions do not have the force of law, but rather set the parameters for all future congressional actions relating to the federal budget. For example, all government spending bills must abide by the funding limits established by the budget resolution in order to comply with House and Senate rules. (“Emergency spending,” such as disaster relief or war funding, is exempted from this requirement.)
In addition, the 2012 budget resolution cut $770 billion from Medicaid—the health insurance program funded jointly by the federal government and states. In order to generate $770 billion in savings, the budget resolution converted Medicaid into a “block grant,” in which states would simply receive a lump sum of money from the federal government to do as they see fit. If Medicaid were converted into a block grant, states would have far more flexibility in setting eligibility requirements for the program. For example, the federal government guaranteed Medicaid coverage to children, pregnant women, and parents with dependent children who met certain income requirements. Under a block grant system, states could elect not to insure those populations, or set the threshold for eligibility much higher. Thus, if Medicaid became a block grant, many Americans could lose their Medicaid coverage.
Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) urged support for the resolution and the underlying budget measure: “We hear a lot about job creators and business owners. Well, I am a small business owner, and I know what this crushing federal debt does to small businesses all across our nation and to job creators as well. It reduces certainty and stability, it scares away private sector investment that leads to growth for our economy, and it crushes the hopes of job creation….Federal deficits, Madam Speaker, have ballooned over the last 3 years, and this budget blueprint for fiscal year 2012 starts to repair the damage and takes the serious steps to put ourselves on a path to paying off the debt and reducing our deficits.”
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) opposed the resolution and the underlying budget measure: “The Road to Ruin budget [the underlying budget measure] ends Medicare. This is a program that 46 million seniors and disabled individuals rely on for their health care. Rather than guaranteed benefits, seniors and the disabled will be left with a voucher, or so-called premium support, that by design cannot and will not keep up with rising health care costs. The private market views seniors as a risky and expensive investment. So too the disabled. So too military servicemembers and veterans who have unique health needs earned through their sacrifice in service to America. The question before us today is not whether to reduce the deficit, but how. We have balanced the budget before without ending Medicare. We can do it again without the painful consequences that the Republican plan would initiate, where our seniors would pay 68 cents of every dollar of insurance required as compared to Congress paying 28 cents on every dollar.”
[While the budget resolution pertains to one specific fiscal year (in this, case 2012), they encompass a five or ten year window. In other words, they make assumptions about the effects of budgetary policies during the five or ten year period following a budget resolution’s enactment. This underlying 2012 budget resolution was a 10-year budget plan. Specifically, it cut $5.8 trillion from federal programs over 10 years, and converted the Medicare program for the elderly into a private health insurance voucher system for those who were currently 55 or younger. Instead of receiving health care through traditional Medicare, which is essentially a single payer health insurance program for the elderly, seniors would receive a subsidy from the federal government to purchase health insurance in the private market.]
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 243-181. All 238 Republicans present and 5 Democrats voted “yea.” 181 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on a budget resolution setting the parameters for all federal government spending, cutting $5.8 trillion from federal programs over 10 years, converting the Medicare program for the elderly into a private health insurance voucher system.