Rep. Joe Barton wants hearing with Sebelius, CBO before health vote

A top-ranking GOP lawmaker is calling on Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman to convene a public hearing with key administration officials on Wednesday before the House votes on the healthcare bill.

Ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) wrote, in a letter to his counterpart, that it was imperative that lawmakers question Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf as to the implications of the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The new legislation, H.R. 3962, creates a government-run health plan where the Secretary of HHS would be permitted to negotiate rates with providers. However, it seems clear from the legislative language of H.R. 3962 that doctors could, and most likely would, be paid a base rate at Medicare levels and the HHS Secretary would be authorized to pay providers less than the Medicare rate,” Barton wrote in the letter to Waxman.

Democratic leaders introduced the final legislative text of their 1,990-page bill last Thursday morning and would like for the lower chamber to vote on the measure as early as Friday or Saturday.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) describes the new bill as an “off-shoot” of the Democrats' original healthcare measure, H.R. 3200, which was approved by the three committees of jurisdiction.

But there have been a number of significant changes made to that original proposal that have caused lawmakers a great deal of heartburn, including the doctor reimbursement provision.

It is still unclear as to whether House Democratic leaders have the 217 votes necessary to approve the new bill.

House Republicans initiated a full-court press to scour and publicize all potentially earth-shaking elements in the freshly released bill to sway wavering Democratic lawmakers.

They contend that the bill was written in backrooms and are making every attempt to drag out the time between now and when leaders call the bill up for a vote on the floor.

Democrats are well aware of the tactic, and are not likely to grant Barton’s request for a public hearing with Sebelius and Elmendorf.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a point on Thursday night of saying that members have had more time to weigh in on this legislation than on many other monumental bills.

“We have had hearings on healthcare reform from 2007 to this day. We have had 81 hours of committee markup. We have had over 86 hours of hearings. We had over 203 hours of caucuses on our side. I presume you have had a similar time, I am sure, paying attention to this bill that has been available to you. It's been 80 days from the time the House bill was first introduced, of which this is obviously an offshoot. It's been 126 days since, as I said, the House discussion draft was first made available online. I think every one of us has had ample opportunity to debate the bill and offer amendments,” Hoyer said to his GOP counterpart Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) during the end of the week colloquy.