House strips language in GOP health bill linking Commerce Clause to healthcare

The bill at issue on Thursday, H.R. 5, would repeal the 2010 law's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and also impose medical tort reform in a bid to reduce "defensive medicine" and lower overall costs.

While Republicans broadly support the bill, language in the findings section appeared to make a link to healthcare and the Commerce Clause in a way that likely made many Republicans uncomfortable. That section says:

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"Congress finds that the health care and insurance industries are industries affecting interstate commerce and the health care liability litigation systems existing throughout the United States are activities that affect interstate commerce by contributing to the high costs of health care and premiums for health care liability insurance purchased by health care system providers."

On Thursday morning, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) offered an amendment to strip that language and all other language in the findings section of the bill. On Wednesday, Woodall explained that the language could confuse the issue of the GOP's position on how to interpret the Commerce Clause.

"The House has voted 25 times so far to either fully repeal, defund, or dismantle portions of the president’s health care law," he said. "Clearly, the House does not subscribe to the notion that the Commerce Clause bestows almost unlimited powers on Congress.

"By eliminating the 'findings,' we eliminate any confusion."

During brief debate on his amendment, Woodall dodged this larger issue, and said he wants to strike the findings section of the bill "because the language of the bill speaks for itself."

House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) said removing the findings section would essentially eliminate the House's justification under the Constitution to pass the bill, and said the findings should not be struck.

"By striking statements of constitutional authority for the bill, the amendment recognizes that many members of the House question Congress's constitutional authority to pass H.R. 5," he said. "So for that reason … the findings are all important."

The House approved of Woodall's amendment to the bill by an 234-173 vote.