During debate, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said he rejects language in the bill that would cap non-economic damage in medical law suits to $250,000, and said the federal government should not prescribe such a specific remedy when many states have different caps.
"While I agree that our medical liability system needs to be changed, I do not believe that it should be at the expense of the fundamental rights of patients, including their ability to seek compensation for wrongful injuries," he said. "Indeed, this bill imposes an arbitrary and unfair cap on non-economic damage that injured patients can receive."
Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) countered what is likely to be a recurring theme in debate on the bill later in the day: that the bill violates the Constitution by prescribing certain legal outcomes for states.
"In the modern era, Congress has enacted many federal tort reform statutes to supersede contrary state laws," he said.
Approval of the rule sets up a six-hour debate on the bill, H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act. Time will be split between leaders of the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Judiciary and Ways and Means.
After the rule vote, the House also approved H.R. 886, approving the Senate-passed bill to direct the minting of coins for the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshal Service. Members passed that bill 409-2.
—This story was updated at 2:56 p.m. to report the second vote.