These votes were on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation that would provide annual funding for Homeland Security Department programs. The first of these two votes was on a procedural motion known as the “previous question"--which effectively ends debate and brings the pending resolution to an immediate vote. The second vote was on passage of the resolution itself.
In addition to setting the terms for floor debate on the Homeland Security bill, this resolution “deemed” passed a Republican budget plan to effectively eliminate Medicare—which is a guaranteed, government-provided, single-payer health care program for the elderly—and replace it with a voucher system in which seniors would purchase health insurance in the private market.
Although the Republican-controlled House had passed the budget measure to implement its plan to effectively dismantle traditional Medicare, the Democratic-controlled Senate had rejected that plan. House Republicans, however, had included language in this resolution that “deemed” the House budget plan passed by both houses of Congress for the purposes of House consideration of spending bills. For all intents and purposes, this simply meant that all spending bills passed by the House would have to comply with limits set by the House Republican budget. It had no binding effect, however, on legislation considered by the Senate.
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) argued that deeming the House budget passed was necessary so that the House could begin passing annual spending bills: “…So that we are able to move ahead with the important appropriations … it is essential that we deem this budget [passed] because we have yet to have a conference report. We've yet to see our friends in the other body [the Senate] pass out a budget.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the sponsor of the Republican budget plan, argued: “…We [Republicans] reform it [Medicare] so that it works like the system members of Congress and federal employees have…where seniors get a choice of plans offered to them by Medicare, guaranteed coverage options from which they can choose, and Medicare subsidizes that plan….This saves Medicare. This puts Medicare on a path to solvency and, more importantly, by saving it for future generations we can keep the promise to the current generation.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) opposed the resolution: “This rule [resolution]… deems passed the elimination of Medicare in order to keep in place tax cuts for the highest earners and tax breaks for oil….I, for one, cannot support a rule that deems passed the elimination of Medicare. Americans resoundingly opposed the approach of dismantling Medicare. They want us to put our economy on more secure fiscal footing and do it while strengthening our economy, creating jobs and mending, not ending, Medicare.”
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) argued: “…If you vote for the rule, you're voting to end Medicare….You don't save something by ending it. Purely and simply. And to come to this floor and say you're saving it when you're ending it, that kind of talk is a big lie.” Levin continued: “So don't come and say you're saviors when you're eliminating a program. Stand up and be honest and say you want to replace it with something else. That something else is not Medicare. It's turning it over to the private insurance industry…”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 235-186. All 235 Republicans voted “yea.” All 186 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 the Homeland Security bill. The House then agreed to the resolution by a vote of 231-187. Voting “yea” were 231 Republicans. All 185 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation that would provide annual funding for Homeland Security Department programs.