Democrats in the Senate are secretly adding amendments they favor and removing those they oppose, even after congressional committees have voted on them, according to House Minority Leader John Boehner, who plans to introduce an amendment requiring the full text of all committee-approved legislation to be posted on the Internet within 24 hours of being adopted.
Boehner said more than 70 changes were made in a health care reform bill approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee after it was approved. The changes were made without informing the GOP members of the committee, according to Boehner.
For the full Boehner statement, go here. We've asked for comment from both the majority and minority leaders on the HELP panel and will update this post when responses are received.
Craig Orfield, a spokesman for Sen. Mke Enzi, the ranking GOPer on the Senate HELP committee provided the following timeline on the issue:
· On July 15, the HELP Committee approved its bill by a party-line vote.
· For nearly two months the majority refused to release the final bill.
· On September 17, the Majority released a copy of the bill.
· After carefully reading the bill they finally released, it’s clear they re-wrote 75 separate areas of the bill – stripping substantive provisions, violating agreements that members of the committee had reached and voted on.
· For example, majority staff:
· Struck language requiring parental consent before providing health services to minors at school-based health centers.
· Eliminated a provision to allow insurers to provide meaningful incentives for people in the individual market to make healthy lifestyle choices, like eating healthy, exercising, and giving up smoking. This amendment would have cut health care costs for a lot of people, helped people live healthier lives, and reduced total health care spending in the long run.
· Struck a requirement that money spent in the name of prevention actually drive down health care premiums. This means that money will be spent on sidewalks and jungle gyms (authorized under the bill), but it won’t necessarily make health care more affordable.
· Removed emergency responders from the health care workforce commission – and replaced them with labor unions that may not even include health care workers.
· Erased provisions to boost the number of health care providers in under-served areas.
UPDATE: Enzi, Barrasso want 72 hour posting, CBO scoring before vote
There is continued movement among some Senate Republicans to develop the issue of transparency in the legislative process. Enzi and his Wyoming colleague, Sen. John Barrasso, have signed on to an amendment that requires all bills in the Senate be publicly available for at least 72 hours and be scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) before a vote can be held on final passage.
That is virtually identical to the amendment defeated by the HELP committee.
“This is a no-brainer that both parties should support. Voting on a bill without having ample time to see the legislative text is like reading a novel with chapter outlines and no actual sentences. Without details, things can be interpreted completely different depending on who is reading it. With legislative language the intent is more clear,” said Enzi.
“People in Wyoming are demanding to know what Washington is spending their money on. They deserve that right. Hardworking Americans have footed the bill to bail out banks. They have seen billions of dollars flushed away in the stimulus package and enormous increases in welfare payments,” Barrasso said. “This bill is about letting folks know what is going on. It is about the transparency and accountability of Congress.”