New Health Care Committee in House Sought by Three Republicans

Posted November 14, 2012 at 8:00pm

Three House Republicans want to create a new committee that would have complete jurisdiction over health care issues, calling it the best opportunity for repealing the 2010 health care law.

Reps. Doc Hastings of Washington, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Rob Woodall of Georgia plan to offer an amendment to create the committee at the Republican organizing conference Thursday.

Because Democrats retained control of the Senate and the White House, the lawmakers say, Republicans must make the most of their control over the House.

“The one domain that Republicans control in Washington, DC is the House of Representatives — and if we are committed to reforming the federal government, to repealing Obamacare and to changing the way Congress functions, then now is the time to seize this opportunity,” they wrote in a letter Wednesday to GOP colleagues.

The proposed House Committee on Health Care would have total legislative authority and jurisdiction over health care matters, including Medicare and Medicaid. It would “ensure relentless oversight of Obamacare” and all the administration’s implementation actions, as well as prepare for repealing and replacing the law in 2017 once Obama leaves office, they wrote.

In addition, the committee would be the place for addressing new bills to change the health care system, strengthen Medicare and improve Medicaid and other federal health programs.

More Than a Rules Change

For the new committee to take effect, the GOP conference would have to vote Thursday to approve the lawmakers’ proposed amendment to the current rules. The change also would need to be included in the House rules package for the 113th Congress, which would be formally adopted on the first day of the next Congress.

A new health committee would mean that lawmakers who already have jurisdiction over health care, such as Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, would have to cede control. That could dampen the amendment’s support.

One House member not involved in the push, speaking anonymously to discuss internal conference deliberations, said that although the idea would strip jurisdiction from the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees, it could prove to be a good idea.

“Unifying Medicare and Medicaid and some health policy when it’s more than 20 percent of the whole economy is a hell of a good idea,” the member said.

According to the House Rules Manual, the most recently created permanent standing committee was the Homeland Security Committee, established in 2005 for the 109th Congress. The panel was first established as a select committee in 2002 for the 107th Congress.

Hastings, Ribble and Woodall argued that the current committee structure deserves to be changed, calling it “antiquated” and noting it is “largely the relic of decades of Democratic control.”

Bills to repeal the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) are referred to eight separate committees, they wrote, while oversight of Medicare and Medicaid is mostly left up to two subcommittees of the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means panels.

Currently, the Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Workforce panels have most of the jurisdiction over health care issues. The most recent bill (HR 6079) to repeal the entire law was referred to those panels, as well as the Natural Resources, Judiciary, House Administration, Rules, Appropriations and Budget committees.

If the amendment is adopted this week, the House would have nearly two months to prepare for establishing the new committee, the lawmakers said. They said taking advantage of this opportunity would be the best way to make a change and ultimately be able to repeal the law.

“To critics it should be asked: how can we possibly hope to repeal Obamacare if we cannot even reform the House over which we have total control?” the Republicans wrote in the letter.

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this story.