Hold a hearing, Mr. Speaker

House Speaker John Boehner’s cadre of Republicans campaigned last year on a promise of more openness, debate and transparency under GOP leadership.

They regularly blasted the Democrats for holding votes without enough public input.  But now Boehner is planning a vote on repealing the health care reform act without holding a single hearing.

Responding to the complaint that he’s breaking a key campaign promise, Boehner has said that better ethics in Washington doesn’t necessarily mean every bill will be open to debate and amendment.

But this isn’t just any bill.

Republicans are pushing to dismantle the health care law — which extended insurance coverage to 32 million Americans — without offering any clear idea of how (or if) they would replace it.

They are also simply dismissing the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s report, which says that repealing the law would add $230 billion to the deficit.

A hearing would give the public an opportunity to hear the Republican leadership’s arguments for why the CBO accounting is wrong.

Finally, a key motive for repealing the law is that many in the GOP believe that a rule requiring individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.

But if that provision is unconstitutional, why is it legal for the Federal government to require people to pay into the Social Security retirement fund?

We need to hear in detail the principles guiding this vote, and we need to know how it would affect other social safety-net programs.

We also need to hear point-blank if the Republican Party simply believes that it shouldn’t be in the social safety net business at all.

If government isn’t going to play a role in helping to cover these tens of millions of uninsured Americans, what happens to those families, and to those workers?

So far, Mr. Boehner hasn’t said.

When Democrats were pushing through the health care law, they held dozens of hearings  and town hall meetings.  They brought their ideas for reform home to their districts.

That’s what sparked many of those raucous town hall meetings.

It’s time now for Republicans to put their own ideas, and their own agenda, before the people.

Some conservatives might argue that last November’s landslide victory for the GOP makes this kind of process unnecessary.  But couldn’t the same be said for Democratic behavior after their sweeping victories in 2008?

Who knows?  Hearings might even reveal common sense reforms and changes that could be approved on a bipartisan vote that would survive a near-certain presidential veto.

We could see more of the real progress that came (to everyone’s surprise) during the lame duck session, rather than more ideological posturing.

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17 Comments on “Hold a hearing, Mr. Speaker”

  1. verplanck says:

    Paul Ryan, the new head of the Budget Committee, released a plan last year that was a real alternative to the Democrats’ HCR bill. However, his plan calls for the complete restructuring of Medicare that would drastically reduce its benefits for consumers. Check out Ezra Klein’s blog at the Washington Post for lots of information on it (including analysis and a few interviews with Ryan).

    There are Republican plans out there. But, they are so radically different than the status quo, the GOP leaders are keeping it at arms length. It is much easier to complain without offering an alternative.

    It will be interesting to see if Ryan’s plan gets more attention this session. Will the Republicans embrace one of its rising stars’ plan? Or will they just use their leadership role to attack the president?

  2. Pete Klein says:

    While I agree with your arguments, Brian, in the interest of reforming government, I would like to see both the Senate and Congress stripped of their power to hold hearings or subpena anyone.
    They all gibber gabber and pontificate too much. It’s all about running for office 24/7/365.
    If government is going to require someone who pushes a broom to pass a civil service exam to get a job, there should also be a requirement for anyone who wants to run for any elected office to first pass a civil service exam.
    Fair is fair.

  3. mervel says:

    I don’t buy that the new health insurance bill has extended insurance coverage to anyone. I would posit that due to the massive increase in health insurance premiums that came with the bill that it has actually reduced health insurance coverage.
    Repealing a bill that is at best non-existent and at worst harmful should not be that big of a deal. The bill does not really do anything until 2014 anyway.

    Its all show though President Obama will simply veto this if it makes his desk which it probably won’t anyway.

  4. Bill G says:

    The most recent statistic on healthcare as a % of GDP I’ve seen is 17.6% (vs 10% or less in avery other developed country). I don’t believe that the healthcare bill does anything reduce that percentage. And, I don’t hear anything from the republican leadership (they treat Ryan’s plan as if it’s toxic) that would address this outsized cost. Healthcare cost is the most significant issue the country faces. It is even one of the more significant drivers of defense department expense. Although there are other items driving the deficit, if healthcare costs are not arrested, all other measures will not get the country to out of the hole. The country doesn’t need a symbolic vote, it needs a substantive discussion of alternatives to the existing system.

  5. verplanck says:


    look up “health insurance exchanges”. they serve a similar purpose to the ‘public option’ that got a lot more press in the debate, and will be primary mechanism to get the 30 million uninsured health care.

    Massive health insurance premium hikes have been the norm for the past 10 years. Everyone’s coverages have dropped over that period. You said yourself that the bill does ‘nothing’ until 2014, how can it then be responsible for the rate increases?


    as part of the agreement between obama and big pharma, items like collective barganing for reduced prescription drugs were taken off the table at the start. that is one of the many issues I (as a liberal) have with the bill that passed. it would have saved us a LOT of money. we’re reforming a broken system; we need to move forward with more significant changes in how we think about health care.


    what will stripping congress of its supoena power (which would probably need a constitutional amendment) do to make them more effective? I’d rather see lobbying and campaign finance reform enacted to make our congresspeople legislate instead of begging big donors for campaign cash.

  6. The Republicans don’t want discussion. They want to make a ideological statement.

    I’m not happy with the Obama health care plan. I thought we should have gone with a single payer system that covered the services necessary to keep the population healthy and productive. Medicare for all if you will. Private supplementary insurance could provide extended coverage for elective services. Coupled with that we should have made more changes to make our system a ‘health care’ system rather than the ‘illness mitigation’ system we currently have. We have the worst health care outcomes of any industrial nation, worse than some third world countries. We need to reward providers for keeping people from getting sick rather than waiting until they are in dire straits to step in.

    We didn’t get that because of the boogieman label of socialism so we got a somewhat better than the current debacle reform. If the Republicans were to say “the Obama Plan sucks and we’re going to hold hearings and produce a better plan to replace it”, I’d be willing to listen but all they are proposing is to go back to the way it was. That is not a solution.

  7. Brian Mann says:

    mervel -

    first, i agree that basic tenets of the health care law are debatable, which is why we should have hearings.

    second, it’s worth pointing out that the non-partisan congressional budget office and a wide array of other independent experts say that your assessment is wrong — this bill has extended care to a lot of people, according to them.

    finally, i’m more than a little surprised that people take it on face value that these premium increases are due in significant measure to the healthcare bill.

    insurance companies have been raising their rates by double digit margins for years.

    private firms have been dropping or scaling back their health care coverage for employees.

    that’s why this reform effort began.

    it seems a little credulous to link all of these recent price spikes to the new law, doesn’t it?

    –brian, ncpr

  8. Brian says:

    “it seems a little credulous to link all of these recent price spikes to the new law, doesn’t it?”

    Eh it’s easier than thinking or doing a little critical analysis.

  9. scratchy says:

    I think there is a difference between paying Social Security taxes and being required to buy health insurance from a private entity.

  10. Pete Klein says:

    I am opposed to being required to purchase health insurance from an insurance company. I would not be opposed to an increased deduction for Medicare if it were the only game in town – the single payer idea.
    This could work only if the sale or purchase of private health insurance were made illegal.
    You do get lower rates if you are part of a larger pool. All the agents says this. If the pool were everyone, the rates should be lower.

  11. Pete Klein says:

    Oh, and yes, both congress and the senate do talk to much. They would rather talk than act.

  12. Paul says:

    A hearing would be a wast of time. This isn’t going to make it past the senate.

    Just have the symbolic vote and get to work on something else!


  13. mervel says:

    I don’t think we need hearings because it is all a big show, health care reform will never happen in any real way that is why they wisely put its larger provisions out to 2014 and the Republicans have no chance of overturning this legislation as they don’t have the votes.

    I don’t blame this bill as the only reason for the increases in the price of insurance; but the major overhaul of health care the largest in the nation’s history since Medicare/Medicaid; has had no impact on what health insurance actually costs for the vas majority of Americans? Either it has had no impact or a negative one would be the answer I guess? I am willing to allow that indeed the reform bill is totally impotent in containing huge price increases in what people pay for health care in this country, but I kind of thought that health care reform meant better health care for most Americans.

    The studies have projected increased access for people who would possibly have been dropped from insurance without this law, which is a good thing, but we hardly needed this healthcare bill to make some regulatory changes to private health insurance.

    I certainly hope it works, but most Americans in 2012 can simply ask themselves if the health insurance they receive and access they have in 2012 is better or worse than what they had in 2010.

    I think I know what the answer will be for the majority of Americans.

  14. JDM says:

    Brian says,

    “finally, i’m more than a little surprised that people take it on face value that these premium increases are due in significant measure to the healthcare bill. ”

    That’s because the Health Care bill passed. It didn’t change the rate increases as promised.

    Brian says, “We could see more of the real progress that came (to everyone’s surprise) during the lame duck session”

    Couldn’t have said it better. Two years, Obama has proven himself to be an incompetent failure. I didn’t think you recognized that as well, but, hey.

    Brian says, “that a rule requiring individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.”

    Because FICA is a tax, and this would be a penalty. But, if it is a tax, then taxes originate in the House. This bill didn’t. So, if it is a penalty, it is unconstitutional, and if it is a tax, it is unconstitutional.

  15. Mervel says:

    Just because people are opposed to this bad legislation does not mean that they are against health care reform. Health care legislation should have to pass its own Hippocratic Oath; the current legislation in my opinion actually makes health care access and quality in the US worse for the majority of Americans.

  16. phahn50 says:

    We need health care reform. This legislation is flawed- its a centrist compromise – but far far better than nothing (the republican alternative). The advantage of hearings is that they (both sides) could go over the arguments for and against again. It would really help if people actually understood what the issues were and the problems we are up against in terms of trying to get health care spending under control without simply denying more and more people care (again the republican alternative).

  17. Bret4207 says:

    The bill is unconstitutional. I realize the Constitution means nothing to most people, but it’s still the law.

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