Updated March 27, 12:49 a.m. | The House passed controversial “doc fix” legislation with a voice vote Thursday, after House GOP leaders spent hours scrambling to round up votes for the deal backed by Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The power move bypassed a recorded roll call vote, with the votes remaining in doubt, incensing some members of the House. Asked if she went along with the voice vote plan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., simply said “yes.”
Without a roll call vote, it’s impossible to know exactly who would have voted for or against the measure, or if it would have had the two-thirds needed to pass on the suspension calendar.
The House had recessed unexpectedly Thursday morning as GOP leaders sought to round up the votes needed to pass the measure ensuring Medicare payments to doctors aren’t cut.
“It’s looking very good,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said earlier. “We’re working on it.”
Immediately after GOP aides told CQ Roll Call the bill would be pulled Thursday morning for a lack of votes, the House Republican Doctors Caucus, which had been opposed to the measure, huddled in a room off of the House floor and were soon joined by GOP leaders. Staff was kicked out of the room.
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told CQ Roll Call he would oppose the bill but would not whip against it, while Pelosi earlier told reporters she would vote for the bill if it came to a vote and said Reid told her he wants it to pass.
Many Democrats would be voting “no,” she said, including two committee ranking members: Henry A. Waxman of Energy and Commerce, and Sander M. Levin of Ways and Means.
“This is the wrong way to go,” she said. “However, you know as well as I, if this does not pass . . . seniors may be turned away from their physicians, and you know what Republicans will say: It was because of the Affordable Care Act. They won’t even say it that way, but that’s their point. And I just don’t want to give them another — the bill in itself, I don’t like it, but it serves a purpose.”
Pelosi also said on Thursday morning that she wasn’t sure how the vote would go down, but suspected that Republicans didn’t have the votes.
“I don’t know why they didn’t just bring it up under the rule, had the discussion, take the vote, but to bring it up under suspension where you have 290 votes or the equivalent of two-thirds of those present and voting, is a mystery to me, unless they thought they couldn’t get 218 votes on their side,” she said.
The Doctors Caucus and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had been pushing back against the deal Boehner announced Wednesday.
The Ohio Republican told reporters Wednesday morning that he and Reid had struck a deal on a yearlong policy that would avoid drastic cuts to Medicare payments to physicians.
Yet soon after, the Nevada Democrat said the deal was merely a work in progress. Wyden piled on, saying he does not support a short-term fix. And on Wednesday afternoon, key House Republicans concerned with health policy said they will most likely not support Boehner’s legislation.
Members of the Doctors Caucus, a group of physicians in the GOP, said the policy would allow Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to revalue Medicare physician payments arbitrarily to pay for the policy, which they see as a broad expansion of executive power that could hit medical specialists’s pocketbooks.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., a member of the caucus, crafted a letter he may send to Boehner on the matter. He noted that the group is also unhappy that the legislation was unveiled late Tuesday, giving the conference little time to absorb the specifics.
Rep. John Fleming, R-La., another member of the caucus, said Wednesday night he did not think the bill had enough votes to pass.
“They haven’t whipped us on it, so I’m not sure what their thinking is. I don’t think it’s right for passage,” he said. “Our caucus tends to go by what doctors recommend. So I’m not so sure our caucus, the non-physicians, are going to back something that the doctors are not going to. There’s a lot in flux until tomorrow.”
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