Democrats force protests on House floor over healthcare bill
© Greg Nash

Democrats employed repeated delay tactics on the House floor Wednesday to protest the GOP’s decision to plow ahead with committee markups of a proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare without an independent analysis of its cost and effects.

Four Democrats — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Mark Takano (Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (Md.) — forced procedural votes on motions to adjourn to extend the amount of time lawmakers had to spend on the floor Wednesday afternoon.

Each of the motions forced members of the two committees working on the GOP proposal to rush back and forth to the House floor and repeatedly interrupt the markups.

ADVERTISEMENT

The first three votes to adjourn all failed, mostly along party lines. But House GOP leaders eventually decided they'd had enough and let the fourth one, from Raskin, be adopted. That led to the House immediately adjourning for the day.

The move takes away one of Democrats' available tactics to slow down the markups. The House doesn't have to be in session for committees to hold hearings or markups, so the markups can continue now without floor votes repeatedly halting the proceedings.

The House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees have been considering the legislation released less than 48 hours ago to repeal and replace ObamaCare, with both markups expected to stretch on for hours.

Democrats have been protesting the GOP moving ahead with committee markups without a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). They’ve noted that the first committee markup on the original Affordable Care Act legislation didn’t take place until 30 days after the text had been publicly posted.

The CBO analysis is expected sometime early next week. House GOP leaders hope to bring the legislation, titled the American Health Care Act, to the floor later this month.

Republicans, for their part, have been downplaying the importance of the CBO score, which could predict that their proposal would leave fewer people with health insurance and add to the deficit.

“Can the chair tell me whether the CBO has scored the American Health Care Act, which is currently being marked up in the Ways and Means Committee?” Hoyer asked.

Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), who was presiding over House proceedings, said Hoyer hadn’t stated a “proper parliamentary inquiry.”

About 20 minutes later, McGovern tried again.

“I’m wondering whether you can inform us whether or not a CBO score has been completed on the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act, because many of us are worried that it will kick up to 20 million Americans off their health coverage,” McGovern said.

Duncan again stated that McGovern wasn’t offering a legitimate parliamentary inquiry.

“To give the Republicans a little bit more time to request a CBO score, I move that the House do now adjourn,” McGovern said.

Once McGovern’s motion was dispensed with another 15 minutes later, the House returned to originally planned proceedings on a spending bill for the Defense Department.

Democrats didn’t only employ delay tactics on the House floor Wednesday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee markup was held up for about an hour after Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) requested the clerk read the entire text of the bill.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce panel, also said Democrats plan to offer about 100 amendments during the markup. 

Updated at 6:09 p.m.