House advances bill cementing Obama's 'like it, keep it' promise

The House on Friday advanced legislation aimed at letting millions of people keep health insurance plans that are scheduled to be canceled under ObamaCare.

Members approved a rule for the Keep Your Health Plan Act, H.R. 3350, in a 228-189 vote. The rule won the support of just six Democrats, as several Democrats rejected it is another Republican attempt to undermine ObamaCare.

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The bill from Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — which does have four Democratic co-sponsors on it — would allow insurance companies to continue offering soon-to-be canceled plans in perpetuity. Republicans said it's needed to permanently fix the problem, and make good on President Obama's promise that people could keep their insurance plan under ObamaCare if they like their plan.

Republicans also said the administrative fix offered by Obama on Thursday is not enough of a guarantee.

"Americans from across the country, from across the ideological spectrum, agree that President Obama has broken his fundamental promise, and now, his attempts to reconcile this broken promise only serve to bring further confusion and chaos," Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said.

Burgess cited press reports saying 3.5 million people will have their insurance canceled, and said Obama can't be trusted to solve the problem for these people.

"Can we really trust the administration that wrote this disastrous missive in the first place, and so mishandled the implementation, do we trust them to now fix it?" he asked. "Do we trust them not to change their minds in two or three weeks time, when perhaps winds are blowing from a different direction?"

Republicans blamed the Obama administration for ignoring Congress and once again selectively enforcing the law by introducing a new administrative fix. But Democrats tried to turn that around on Republicans by saying they were rushing passage of a bill with no hearings or markups.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said the House process is giving Democrats no way of influencing the policy change being proposed by Republicans. He also said the bill needs more scrutiny because it could drastically alter the insurance market.

"It would profoundly affect the lives of millions of Americans, upend the individual market, and add confusion and uncertainty into an already complicated situation," he said.

Burgess replied by saying Obama himself has made numerous changes to the law without asking Congress, including extending the initial enrollment date and delaying the employer insurance mandate.

"You want to talk about something that was done without any hearings, you want to talk about something that was done in a non-transparent fashion, you want to talk about something that was done without the ability to amend or debate on the floor of the House, let's go through a few of these," Burgess said.

While Democrats argued against the GOP bill, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) encouraged members to support a middle-ground bill from Democrats. She said their alternative would require a one-year delay in the cancellation of policies that no longer qualify under ObamaCare, and require insurance companies to explain to people their new options under the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges.

It would also let state insurance commissioners crack down on insurance companies that unfairly increase insurance rates.

Pelosi and other Democrats said their plan is better than the GOP plan, which they said would threaten the operation of ObamaCare. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) equated the canceled plans to old cars without modern safety features, and said letting people use them forever would make ObamaCare unworkable.

"If anyone who wants to can buy one of these cars without an air bag, or cars without seat belts — and that's what these plans are — then you will find that the new marketplaces don't have enough people in them," he said. "And when they don't have enough people in them, the rates will rise."

But Democrats were not expected to succeed in their effort to pass their alternative today. They have only a two procedural chances to call it up, and one of them is already gone.

Just before the vote on the rule, the House voted 225-193 in favor of ordering up the rule — a vote the other way would have let Democrats bring up their alternative, but only in theory, as the vote in the GOP-majority House was never in doubt.

The low number of Democrats supporting the rule is not necessarily a sign that a similarly low number will vote against the bill itself.

In July, for example, just four Democrats voted for the rule allowing votes on bills to delay the individual and employer health insurance mandates. But 22 Democrats ultimately voted in favor of the individual mandate delay, and 35 voted for the employer mandate delay.