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Monday, August 03, 2009

Cutting Through the Disinformation: Democrats Health Care Bill Rejected Bipartisan Solutions

Party line votes in House Committees illustrate how very partisan this Democrat plan is!

After finishing the work in committees that created the latest version of Obama Care to be considered this fall by the House of Representatives Democrat members of Congress are heading back to their districts to try and explain the bill to their constituents.

As they head out of town they are handed a list of talking points prepared by the spinmeisters in the Democrat establishment to explain the bill and attempt to deflect the criticism which is mounting to a fever pitch (see below).

Chief among their talking points is that disinformation about the bills are driving opposition. Obama trotted out this talking point in a speech recently where he suggested "Sometimes folks get stirred up without necessarily having all the facts available to them," the president said Wednesday, complaining that the debate has been infected by "fear tactics and misinformation."

That's an interesting charge since Obama has admitted HE hasn't read the bills or been heavily involved in any of the negotiations on developing the legislation.

The other talking point du jour is the Democrat appeal to Republicans to join in a "bipartisan solution" to health care. Charlie Rangel, the Democrat chair of the House Ways and Means Committee which passed an earlier version of the health care bill repeated the "bipartisan" plea three times in an interview with Chris Wallace on the August 2 edition of Fox News Sunday.

There's an easy way for conservatives to dispel both talking points. As the latest House bill moved through the various committees Republican members proposed a variety of amendements that would make the bill a truly bipartisan effort and eliminate some of the wasteful and dangerous elements that have attracted so much attention. Nearly all of them were voted down on mostly straight party line votes.

We can go back and read the amendments that Republicans proposed and see how they were voted down one after the other by Democrats in near unison. Here's a list from the House Energy and Commerce Committee from last Friday.

House GOP Leader John Boehner has complied a comprehensive report on amendments throughout the recent bill writing process:


- Stop the government-run health plan. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered an amendment to improve the Democratic legislation by taking out the section of the bill that would create a government-run health plan to compete with private sector health plans. Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN) and John Kline (R-MN) offered similar amendments in the Education & Labor Committee. The GOP amendments were all killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and her chairmen.

- Prevent bureaucrats from making personal medical decisions for patients. Rep. Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA) offered an amendment in the Energy & Commerce Committee to bar federal political appointees and bureaucrats from intervening in patient treatment decisions. The Gingrey amendment would have ensured patients and doctors remain as the sole individuals responsible for making these critical decisions. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) led Democrats in opposition to the amendment, which was defeated.

- Require all Members of Congress to get their health insurance through the proposed government-run plan. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) offered an amendment in the Ways & Means Committee that would have required Members of Congress to enroll immediately in the government-run health plan that would be established under the Democratic bill. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) offered an amendment to put his committee on the record in support of enrolling Members of Congress in the government-run plan as well. While the Wilson amendment was approved by voice vote in the Education & Labor Committee, the Heller amendment was killed in the Ways & Means Committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Establish a $1 trillion deficit cap. During Energy & Commerce Committee consideration of the Democrats’ government-run health care plan, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) offered an amendment to delay “disease prevention” spending for items like municipal jungle gyms and bicycle trails until Washington’s budget deficit dips below $1 trillion. Democrats defeated the amendment, paving the way for more unchecked spending.

- Keep the federal government out of health care decisions. Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) offered an amendment to prohibit the federal government from conducting so-called comparative effectiveness research, in which the federal government would ultimately help determine which medical treatments are administered to whom in America – otherwise known as government rationing of health care. The Herger amendment was killed at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel. Days later, in a July 22 prime-time press conference, President Obama told the nation the health care bill “will keep government out of health care decisions,” despite the fact that the comparative effectiveness language remains in the bill.

- Protect Americans from “hurry up and wait.” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) offered an amendment that would repeal the government-run health plan if wait times exceed the average wait times in private plans. The Brady amendment was killed at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Stop the job-killing employer mandate. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) offered an amendment in the Committee on Ways & Means to improve the Democratic legislation by taking out the section of the bill that requires American employers to provide health coverage for all of their employees, and Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) offered similar amendments in the Committee on Education & Labor. Independent analysts agree this Democratic mandate on employers is likely to result in the elimination of millions of American jobs, and it could hardly come at a worse moment for the nation’s economy. The GOP amendments were killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi.

- Suspend the job-killing employer mandate if the national unemployment rate reaches 10 percent. Reps. Wally Herger (R-CA) and Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) offered amendments in their committees that would suspend the job-killing employer mandate in the Democratic bill if the national unemployment rate reaches or goes above 10 percent. (It is currently at 9.5 percent, with the new number expected to be released on Friday, August 7). The Herger and Hoekstra amendments were killed in both the Ways & Means and Education & Labor Committees at the behest of Speaker Pelosi.

- Waive the employer mandate if it will cause layoffs, worker salary cuts, or reductions in hiring. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) offered an amendment that would waive the employer mandate in the Democrats’ health care bill for any employer who certifies, under procedures developed by the Secretary of the Treasury, that it would pose a financial hardship resulting in layoffs of existing workers, reductions in salary of existing workers, or the inability to expand via hiring new employees. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) offered a similar amendment in the Education & Labor Committee, and it was adopted by voice vote. However, the Reichert amendment was killed in the Ways & Means Committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Protect employers from unfair taxation. Under the Democratic bill as written, if an employer offers qualifying health care coverage but an employee rejects it for any reason, the employer can still be slapped with an 8 percent tax on the value of that employee’s wages as a result of the job-killing employer mandate in the bill. Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) offered an amendment to fix this problem and protect employers from such unfair penalization. The Davis amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Protect employers who offer health care coverage to their workers. As written, the Democratic health care bill would gut ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act), the federal law that makes it possible for millions of American workers to receive quality health care benefits and other benefits through their employers. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) offered an amendment to fix this flaw and shield employers who offer health care coverage to their workers from being caught up in a web of legal liability systems that would vary from state to state. The Kline amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Create small business health plans. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) offered an amendment that would modify the Democratic bill to allow the creation of small business health plans (also known as Association Health Plans) that allow trade, industry, professional, or other business associations to form and purchase health care coverage at a lower cost. The McKeon amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Keep unnecessary lawsuits from driving up health costs. Under the Democratic bill, Americans would be required to obtain their health care through a “national health insurance exchange” that is limited to “qualified” providers. In the Ways & Means Committee, Rep. John Linder (R-GA) offered an amendment that would keep the so-called exchange from operating in states that do not have reasonable limits on lawsuits relating to medical care. Unnecessary lawsuits have long been identified as one of the primary factors in rising health costs nationwide. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) offered a similar amendment in the Education & Labor Committee that would prevent the creation of the so-called “exchange.” Both the Linder and Thompson amendments were killed at the behest of Speaker Pelosi.

- Prevent taxpayer-funded health benefits from going to illegal immigrants. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) offered an amendment that would increase safeguards to ensure taxpayer-funded benefits do not go to individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States. This amendment, too, was killed at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Prevent taxpayer funding of abortion. Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX), Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Mark Souder (R-IN) offered amendments to remove language from the Democratic legislation that would result in American taxpayers subsidizing abortion-on-demand. A recent Zogby survey determined that more than 70 percent of Americans are opposed to taxpayer funding of abortion. Speaker Pelosi and her committee chairmen killed all of these amendments.

- Ensure states are not forced to provide abortion benefits. In the Energy & Commerce Committee, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) offered an amendment to ensure that states are not required to provide coverage for abortion – or even procedures such as Botox injections and hair plugs. Under the Democrats’ legislation, the federal government could deny the states funding if such services are not provided. Democrats rejected Rep. Deal’s amendment in a party-line vote.

- Prevent health care providers from being forced into a government-run plan. Rep. Charles Boustany, M.D. (R-LA), a physician, offered an amendment to prevent American health care providers from being forced into the government-run plan established under the Democratic bill. The Boustany amendment was killed in committee by Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Require the government-run plan to operate under the same rules as private health plans. Rep. Boustany offered an amendment to improve the Democratic legislation by requiring that the government-run plan established in the bill maintain reserves and other margins in amounts consistent with the standards that apply to private plans. Reserves would have to come from premiums, not federal subsidies. This amendment was killed at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Specify that Congress should read the health care bill before voting on it. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) offered an amendment expressing the sense of Congress that Members of Congress should read the health care bill before they vote on it. More than 80 House Republicans have signed a pledge vowing they will not vote to enact a health care bill they have not read and which has not been posted online publicly for at least 72 hours. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), by contrast, reportedly scoffed at the notion of reading the bill before voting on it. The Brady amendment was defeated in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Keep President Obama’s tax pledge not to raise taxes. Last year, in his campaign for the presidency, President Obama pledged he would not raise taxes on anyone making less than $200,000 ($250,000 for those filing jointly), but the health care legislation written by House Democrats would violate this pledge. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered an amendment that would keep the new taxes proposed in the Democratic legislation from applying to those with incomes under $200,000 ($250,000 for those filing jointly). The Ryan amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) offered a similar amendment in the Education & Labor Committee. It was not even allowed to come to a vote by Chairman Miller.

- Keep President Obama’s pledge that health care reform will not add to the deficit. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) offered an amendment to prohibit the government-controlled health care system from taking effect unless the legislation is and remains “deficit neutral.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan “scorekeeper” for Congress, has determined that the bill as drafted will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. The McClintock amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Ensure that workers who like their current health plan can keep it. Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Tom Price (R-GA) offered an amendment to ensure that Americans who like their current employer-provided coverage can keep it by shielding such coverage from the costly and complex new mandates in the Democratic health care bill. Under the amendment, employer –based health plans that comply with ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act), the federal law that makes it possible for millions of American workers to receive quality health care benefits and other benefits through their employers, would be considered as having met all of the mandates specified in the bill. The Biggert-Price amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Ensure Americans cannot be forced into a government-run health care plan. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) offered an amendment that would prohibit the federal government from automatically enrolling Americans in the government-run health plan that would be created under the Democratic health care bill, allowing Americans to choose whether or not they want to be enrolled in such a plan. The Brown-Waite amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel. Similarly, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) offered an amendment to allow workers to choose to keep their current health care coverage by signing cards stating that they do not want their existing employer-provided coverage to be subject to the new mandates of the Democrats’ health care reform bill. This is modeled in the “card check” method Democratic leaders have advocated in conjunction with Washington-based union bosses. The Kline amendment was defeated at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Stop seniors from being stripped of their health care choices. Rep. Brown-Waite offered an amendment that would remove portions of the Democratic health care bill that would cut the Medicare Advantage program. Such cuts would impact millions of seniors nationwide, taking away their choices and forcing them into a government-run health care plan with fewer options. The Brown-Waite amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Prohibit unfair advantages for government-run health plan. The Democratic health care bill would create a government-run health care plan to “compete” with private sector plans that currently provide health coverage for millions of Americans. House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) has warned that a government-run health care plan will compete with private sector health plans “the way an alligator competes with a duck,” and the legislation written by Democrats would allow the government-run health plan to have distinct advantages at the expense of taxpayers and private plan enrollees. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) offered an amendment that would prohibit the Secretary of Health & Human Services from basing payment rates for the government-run health plan established under the Democratic bill on Medicare rates, and instead would require that they pay an average of what private plans in the market pay. The Roskam amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Keep the federal government from choosing “favored” physicians. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a physician, offered an amendment to keep eliminate the flawed “tiered” payment structure in the Democratic health care bill, which would give preference to physicians who participate in the government-run health care plan. This provision would allow the government to reward physicians who play by its rules while financially harming those who do not. The Price amendment was defeated at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Allow states to opt out. Bipartisan opposition to the Democratic health care bill has been expressed by governors and state legislators throughout the country. Rep. Price offered an amendment to permit states that have crafted their own health plans to apply for waivers from the Democratic legislation’s requirements. The Price amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Preserve Americans’ health care freedom and choice. Many Americans favor Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which give individual Americans more direct control over their health care spending, but the Democratic bill as written would wreak havoc on HSAs and similar tools that empower individuals and consumers. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) offered an amendment to improve the Democratic bill by ensuring that HSAs would not be shut down or gutted by federal mandates. Specifically, the Cantor amendment stated that HSAs tied to high deductible health plans are deemed to meet the “minimum benefit level requirements” under the Democratic bill, and struck changes to the bill’s “definition of allowable medical expenses” for HSAs and similar accounts. The Cantor amendment was defeated in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) offered an amendment to provide greater portability and individual control over health care by allowing employers to contribute to “defined contribution” health care plans, which workers could use to purchase the coverage and services of their choice. The Price amendment was defeated in the Education & Labor Committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Miller.

- Allow Americans to continue to enroll in private individual market health plans. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) offered an amendment to repeal the Democratic bill’s prohibition on new enrollees in private individual market plans. This amendment was killed at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Slow Medicare’s march toward bankruptcy. Concerned about the coming fiscal tsunami that will result from out-of-control spending on entitlement programs, the GOP-led Congress earlier this decade passed legislation specifying that if 45 percent or more of the Medicare program's funding came from general tax revenues for two consecutive years, the President had to submit to Congress legislation that would slow spending and make the program financially stable. Democrats gutted this rule as part of their rules package for the current Congress. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) offered an amendment to restore it. The amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

- Prohibit new taxes until Medicare fraud rate is reduced to below 1 percent. Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) offered an amendment to improve the Democratic bill by specifying that the new taxes that would be imposed on Americans under the bill could not take effect unless the fraud rate in Medicare is reduced to below 1 percent of the amount of taxpayer money spent on the program. The Camp amendment was killed in committee at the behest of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Rangel.

Democrats blocked nearly every effort by Republicans to craft a bill which could in any way be considered "bipartisan." Instead, they wrote a bill which appeals directly to special interest groups and big campaign contributors like the trial lawyers, unions, illegal immigrants and abortion activists.

Democrats rejection of Republican amendments is the smoking gun documentation which proves this legislation isn't a health bill for Americans. It's another Christmas tree for extreme liberals and it will only make health care problems worse, not better!

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