This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which invested $15 billion over ten years in preventive health care initiatives. If passed, this particular procedural motion--known as the “previous question"--effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund was established in 2010 under the landmark health care reform law that was strongly supported and signed into law by President Obama. The Fund authorized the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to allocate funding to states for a wide variety of preventive health care programs, such as immunizations, school health centers, primary care physician training programs, and anti-obesity measures. Most Democrats strongly supported the Fund, arguing it would lower health care costs by expanding access to preventive care. Republicans derided the program as a “slush fund” for the HHS secretary.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “Pitt County, in my home state of North Carolina, received funding from this fund to fix prices at convenience stores so that healthy foods would be less expensive and, therefore, supposedly more attractive to the consumer. In addition, the Pitt County Health Department now plans to use some of this money to put up signs indicating the location of public parks, bike lanes, and alternate transportation. Although I am certainly not opposed to parks or healthy eating habits, it seems quite clear that the founders of this country did not intend the federal Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, to use taxpayer money to subsidize granola bars or purchase signs for bike lanes or parks. The federal government has no business paying for local and community initiatives such as these, especially when we are borrowing 43 cents of every dollar the federal government spends to pay for it.”
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) opposed the resolution and the underlying bill: “The burden of chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, present a significant public health challenge to all of our communities and our nation as a whole. In my home State of Florida, over 10 million cases of seven chronic diseases--cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions--were reported early on in this decade at the cost of about $17.6 billion in treatment, and resulting in $68.7 billion in lost productivity and economic cost. Simply put, we have a sick care system, not a health care system. Tens of millions of Americans are suffering from health conditions that could possibly be preventable….The Prevention and Public Health Fund represents an unprecedented investment of $15 billion over 10 years to help prevent disease, detect it early, and manage conditions before they become severe. It aims to transform the focus of our system of care from primarily treating illness to maintaining long-term wellness by leveraging the power of preventive medicine.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 238-182. All 236 Republicans present and 2 Democrats voted “yea.” 182 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which invested $15 billion over ten years in preventive health care initiatives such as immunizations, school health centers, primary care physician training programs, and anti-obesity measures.