(CNSNews.com) – More than 200 amendments were rejected by the House Rules Committee ahead of Saturday's vote on the Democrats' health care bill, including 11 that would have required members of Congress and other government officials to be enrolled in the same federal insurance plan proposed for the American people.
Critics of the health care bill said they offered the 11 amendments – including some that would require the president, vice president, and Supreme Court justices to give up their Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) to enroll in the ‘public option’ or Medicaid – to showcase the problems with the massive legislation.
“If Congress forces our constituents into a public option plan over time, then members of Congress should be expected to do the same,” Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) told CNSNews.com.
The House Rules Committee attempt was the second time McKeon had tried to amend the Democrats’ health plan to include legislators in the public option.
“Democrats voted down a similar amendment, 21-18, in the Ways and Means Committee during the July markup of HR 3200,” McKeon said. “It became apparent then that Democrats are afraid of being put on a government-run health care program, but that fear does not extend to the welfare of their own constituents.”
The public option in the House bill would be a government health insurance agency run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and available through the federal Health Insurance Exchange.
“This is one of those classic hypocritical moments for the Democrats,” Matt Lavoie, spokesman for Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), told CNSNews.com. “They simply don’t want to put up with the public option that they are preparing to inflict on the American public.”
But Vincent Morris, communications director for the Democrat-controlled House Rules Committee, told CNSNews.com that the amendments were rejected because no one, including Congress, will be forced to sign on to government-run health care.
“The reason we didn’t support those amendments is because the public option was created precisely to give the American people a choice between private and public [insurance], Morris said. “Given that all Americans have a choice about whether to join the public option, we thought it didn’t make any sense to force members of Congress to join.”
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said he proposed his amendment because the bill does not fix the problems with the already government-run Medicaid program. His amendment “would make members of Congress a mandatory covered population under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid) without consideration of any other asset or qualification test.”
“This bill fails to address the problems with Medicaid and instead adds millions more Americans to the program,” Burgess told CNSNews.com. “Forcing members of Congress to walk a mile in the shoes of Medicaid patients I believe is the only way Congress will get serious about making the fundamental fixes to Medicaid that the program needs.”
Morris said Burgess’ amendment was rejected because it could hurt poor people.
“Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides low-income populations with health care,” Morris told CNSNews.com. “Democratic members strongly oppose any effort of diverting resources for the poor to themselves instead.
“If Medicaid resources are diverted to members of Congress, it could impact low-income Americans, and that’s why Democrats did not support the amendment,” Morris said.
But J. Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) told CNSNews.com that by agreeing to be a part of the same system they are offering the American people, Democrats could send a message that they are confident that their bill will benefit Americans.
“If members of Congress and the White House administration truly believe that a government health care option will provide the same timely and quality care that private sector health insurance does, then they and their staffs should be required to enroll in this option,” Barrett said.
“If it is good enough for American families, then it is more than good enough for Washington bureaucrats,” he said. “Therefore, I decided to offer an amendment which would mandate all members of Congress, their staff, and administration officials to participate in the public option.”
He said HR 3962 has the same problems as the previously proposed bill, HR 3200.
“When H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, was introduced, I was disappointed to find that many of the problems in the original bill had not been addressed or changed in any way,” Barrett said.
“While I adamantly oppose any kind of government-run health care option, I decided to offer several amendments which would address some of the most troubling provisions in this legislation, including an amendment that mandates all members of Congress, their staff, and administration officials to participate in the public option,” Barrett added.
Barrett added that the process that led up to the passage of HR 3962 was anything but bi-partisan.
“I believe my amendments were rejected because the House Rules Committee is currently under Democrat control,” he said. “This closed-door process is not an appropriate way to make decisions, especially considering the sweeping consequences of this massive bill.”