By Russell Berman - 04/02/14 03:03 PM EDT
House Republican leaders got an earful in two separate private meetings Wednesday from conservatives fuming over their move last week to pass a Medicare payment fix without a full House vote.
The leadership on Thursday had abruptly put up a bill to prevent a cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors, passing it by voice vote rather than holding a recorded roll-call vote. Few members were on the House floor to object, angering conservatives who accused the leadership of subverting the democratic process.
During a closed-door meeting of the Republican Study Committee on Wednesday, lawmakers kicked staff out of the room so members could air their concerns with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is a member.
“It was a closed-door meeting so I probably shouldn’t share, but it wasn’t pleasant,” Salmon said when asked what was said.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said lawmakers voiced their “frustration that this was not the process that we should be going through.”
Cantor told members that the voice vote was “the least bad” option, Fleming said. GOP leaders had only days to move a bill before doctors would have faced a 24 percent cut in Medicare payments.
The House was scheduled to leave Thursday for a long weekend, and leaders did not want to extend the session by several hours to set up a vote requiring a simple majority to pass. They had hoped to pass the bill through a procedure requiring a two-thirds threshold, but they realized they were short of the votes.
Fleming said Cantor complained that Republicans were getting little cooperation from Democrats, who planned to publicly blame the GOP if the Medicare bill failed. Democratic leaders agreed not to object to a voice vote, and the bill passed in less than a minute, before most lawmakers had reached the floor.
Fleming, a member of the doctor's caucus, told reporters on Thursday he was made aware that leaders planned to pass the bill by voice vote and did not object on the floor.
Several conservatives also stood up to complain in an earlier meeting of the full Republican conference. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) accused the leadership of flouting democracy in using the maneuver, while Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) questioned whether the cost of the bill was fully paid before, as the leaders had claimed.
A GOP aide noted that Massie was on the floor when the bill was called up and did not object.
Mulvaney said later that the Republican budget, which was unveiled on Tuesday, needed to account for the passage of the Medicare bill, commonly known in Washington as the “doc fix.”
“It pays for that by reducing the deficit in 2024, but I don’t happen to agree with that,” Mulvaney said of the budget.
Mulvaney had been among the angriest members after the action on Thursday, telling reporters it was “bulls---.”
Asked how he planned to vote on the budget, which he has supported in the past, Mulvaney replied: “I have no idea.”
Lawmakers praised Cantor for coming to the RSC meeting and answering questions, and a person in the room said he received a standing ovation despite the member concerns.
“I thought it was a satisfactory meeting,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t know that we’ve reached a satisfactory conclusion.”