This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) prohibiting federal funds from being used by employees of the Health and Human Services Department (the federal agency that enforces laws relating to health care) to implement or enforce a major health care reform law enacted in 2010. This amendment was offered to a continuing resolution funding the federal government through September 2011, and cutting $61 billion in federal funding for many government programs.
(The healthcare reform measure that Republicans sought to derail was strongly supported by President Obama, and he signed it into law in March 2010. The law imposed a requirement that most Americans have health insurance, and was estimated to expand insurance coverage to 95% of the U.S. population. Employers with more than 50 workers were required to provide health insurance for their employees. The measure added 15 million people to the Medicaid rolls, and subsidized the purchase of private health insurance coverage for low- and middle-income people. In addition, the health care law imposed a 40% tax on high-cost insurance plans -- or those plans that are worth more than $27,500 for families, and $10,200 for individuals.)
This was the first of three similar amendments intended to prohibit federal funds from being used to implement the landmark health care reform law described above. While this amendment specifically prohibited the Health and Human Services Department from using federal funds to implement the law, the second amendment imposed this prohibition on all federal employees. The third amendment specifically prohibited federal funding from being used to pay the salaries of federal employees charged with implementing the health care reform law.
Rehberg urged support for his amendment: “My goal, and the goal of the majority of Americans, is to repeal the new health care law. Until then, my objective is to defund it entirely and stop its implementation. It is impossible at this time to describe the many reasons that justify defunding and repeal. Let me begin with my belief that the law is unconstitutional. It runs contrary to our most fundamental concepts of limited government and individual liberty and responsibility. It's a law designed by those who wish to control every health care decision made by health care providers and patients, by every employer and employee, by every family and individual. It will control every aspect of one-sixth of our economy….This is a job killer. How foolhardy to create a new entitlement program when we cannot pay for the ones we already have and cannot meet our current operating expenses without borrowing beyond our ability to repay. This is madness.”
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) opposed the amendment: “If you are a member of the American public, this amendment changes your life. For millions of Americans and for millions of their children, for millions of their parents this amendment changes their life.…So many of our new Republican colleagues have come to town and said, I'm just one of the folks back home. I'm not enamored with Washington. I'm just one of the folks back home. Vote for this amendment, and you won't be like the folks back home. Vote for the amendment, and you will be very different than the folks back home, because you will have insurance and they won't….You won't lose your insurance when you need it for you, your children, or your spouse, but your constituents will. You are not just like the folks back home. You are doing grave damage to the folks back home.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 239-187. Voting “yea” were 236 Republicans and 3 Democrats. 185 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment prohibiting funds provided by a continuing resolution from being used by employees of the Health and Human Services Department to implement or enforce a major health care reform law enacted in 2010.