Via Dave Weigel, a minor but revealing betrayal of the party’s endless blather in 2010 about accountability and transparency. You know, or should know, what “doc fix” is by now. Every year, Medicare payments to doctors are supposed to follow a sustainable growth rate that was set in the 1990s. And every year, the two parties get together to cancel that rate because it’s too low to make doctors happy. Neither party’s going to risk alienating seniors by giving doctors a reason to drop Medicare patients, so the scheduled rate is always, always undone. It’s that time of year again — but today the House had a problem. They didn’t have enough votes to pass a new doc fix right away, with the necessary two-thirds majority vote, and they didn’t want to hang around and jump through the procedural hoops needed to pass it by a simple majority vote. Their solution was to hold a voice vote, which would mean no roll and no accountability. That was exactly what Ted Cruz objected to a few weeks ago in forcing a roll-call vote in the Senate on raising the debt ceiling. If, after promising Republican voters that they’d demand concessions in return for raising the ceiling, the party’s leadership had decided not to ask for anything after all, Cruz wanted them to at least put their names to their votes in favor of a clean debt-ceiling hike. Would Boehner et al. follow the same principle in the House for doc fix?
“Outrageous,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) told The Hill after complaining about the maneuver to a colleague. “I think it’s outrageous.”
House Republican leaders had planned to bring up the “doc fix” under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority to pass, but after a series of closed-door meetings on Thursday morning, they determined they didn’t have the votes to meet that threshold and didn’t want to stay in session long enough to set up a simple majority vote.
So with just a few members on the House floor before a scheduled vote on an unrelated Ukraine measure, Republicans brought up the Medicare bill by voice vote. When no one in the chamber objected, the measure passed.
“Bullshit,” said a visibly annoyed Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) as he emerged from the floor following the Ukraine vote. When Mulvaney was asked to comment about the upcoming GOP budget, he replied: “I can’t talk about the budget because I’m so pissed about the [doc fix].”
The lack of transparency is bad enough, but the kicker, as Weigel notes, comes in the actual video of the vote. They needed two-thirds of the House to voice their support of the bill in order to deem it passed. They very clearly didn’t get it. There’s practically no one in the chamber, and of the members who were there, most were vocally opposed. It’s a total sham, obviously designed to make it easier on both parties to sidestep normal procedure and rubber-stamp the annual Medicare spending hike. Exit quotation: “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was not in Washington on Thursday, but spokesman Michael Steel said he was kept apprised of the discussions and did not object to the voice vote.”