Hoyer ‘Not Closed’ to Voting for Upton Obamacare Bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:56pm

Just minutes before the White House slammed a House GOP bill aimed at President Barack Obama’s “if you like it, you can keep it” promise regarding health care plans, the No. 2 House Democrat said he was open to supporting the proposed change to the Affordable Care Act.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s willingness to consider voting for the bill, scheduled for floor consideration on Friday, underscores the difficulty many Democrats face in wanting to deal with the dust-up over health insurance policy cancellations while still supporting the president.

“I don’t know what I’m gonna do on the Upton bill,” the Maryland Democrat said at a Tuesday briefing with reporters when discussing legislation sponsored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

Hoyer noted that he was “inclined not to be for the Upton bill at this time,” but he emphasized that he was “not closed to the option,” and would “reserve judgment” until he had seen the legislative text, which is reportedly undergoing some tweaks.

“I agree that people who purchased their policies prior to [the law’s enactment date] ought to be able to keep their policies,” he said.

Upton’s bill would allow individuals to keep their health insurance plans regardless of whether they comport with the new standards of the 2010 health care law. Though Obama assured the American people that no one would have to give up their preferred policies, many people are finding that their policies are being canceled as the law goes into effect because the plans they currently have don’t line up with requirements under the new law.

Republicans (and some Democrats) have accused Obama of “lying.” On Tuesday, Hoyer vehemently disagreed that the president was doing anything nefarious.

“There was a lack of precision in terms of an explanation” about what the bill would and would not do, and whose health insurance policies would and would not get canceled, Hoyer said.

Hoyer expressed similar misgivings a few weeks earlier about the messaging around Obamacare in the lead-up to passage in March of 2010.

Though most Republican-sponsored bills to undermine elements of the law are easy “no” votes for Democrats, this particular issue is causing them considerable heartburn, especially as more high-profile members of their party come out against the president’s health care talking points.

Republicans are paying close attention to Democratic “defections,” too — especially that of President Bill Clinton.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon regarding Clinton’s recent comments:

I applaud President Clinton for joining the bipartisan call for President Obama to keep his promise to the American people. These comments signify a growing recognition that Americans were misled when they were promised that they could keep their coverage under President Obama’s health care law. The entire health care law is a train wreck that needs to go. And while the two parties may disagree on that point, it shouldn’t stop reasonable Democrats from working with us to shield Americans from its most egregious consequences – like the millions of current health plans being canceled. That’s why all Democrats concerned about the president’s broken promise should join Republicans in voting to pass the Keep Your Health Plan Act when it comes before the House later this week. President Clinton understood that governing in a divided Washington requires a focus on common ground, and I hope President Obama will follow the former president’s lead.