By Russell Berman - 03/27/14 01:37 PM EDT
Angry House conservatives denounced the Republican leadership for abruptly ramming through a fix to Medicare doctor payments on Thursday without a full roll call vote.
“Outrageous,” Rep. Louie GohmertLouie GohmertGOP rep: Trump ‘courageous’ for giving Cruz speech GOP bill would block undocumenteds from military service GOP rep Gohmert: Obama has ‘divided us more than ever’ MORE (R-Texas) told The Hill after complaining about the maneuver to a colleague. “I think it’s outrageous.”
So with just a few members on the House floor before a scheduled vote on an unrelated Ukraine measure, Republicans brought up the Medicare bill by voice vote. When no one in the chamber objected, the measure passed.
“Bullshit,” said a visibly annoyed Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) as he emerged from the floor following the Ukraine vote. When Mulvaney was asked to comment about the upcoming GOP budget, he replied: “I can’t talk about the budget because I’m so pissed about the [doc fix].”
The measure is an annual delay to the sustainable growth rate formula that this time would prevent a 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement payments to doctors set to begin at month’s end. The change is broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats most years, but it drew opposition from the American Medical Association, which has pushed for a long-term solution to the problem instead of annual patches. House and Senate leaders have agreed on a resolution to repeal the formula, but they can’t agree on how to pay for the $180 billion cost over a decade, necessitating the stopgap measure.
Rep. John FlemingJohn FlemingDavid Duke will bank on racial tensions in Louisiana Senate bid Former KKK leader David Duke running for Senate Overnight Finance: Senate punts on Zika funding | House panel clears final spending bill | Biz groups press Treasury on tax rules | Obama trade rep confident Pacific deal passes this year MORE (R-La.), a member of the “Doctor’s Caucus” that opposed the bill, said he didn’t like the maneuver but did not object because, he said, the alternative of payment cuts to doctors was worse.
“This would affect millions of seniors across the country in a very negative way,” he said.
“I didn’t like the way we did that,” Fleming added. “They gave us a choice between something bad and something worse.”
Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention House uprising thwarts change to Patriot Act GOP angst grows over Trump MORE (R-Mich.) voiced his displeasure on Twitter, writing: “Short on votes for controversial spending bill, so GOP & Dem leaders rammed it through by ‘voice vote’ in empty House chamber. Not right.”
Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ohio) was not in Washington on Thursday, but spokesman Michael Steel said he was kept apprised of the discussions and did not object to the voice vote. He had told reporters on Wednesday a temporary doc fix was needed but held out hope for an eventual long-term agreement.
While the maneuver undermines pledges of transparency by the House GOP leadership, aides quipped that it was a rare show of bipartisan cooperation.
Democratic leaders signed off on the move, and rank-and-file members were more amused than anything else.
Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyDems urge treaty ratification after South China Sea ruling Lawmakers back bill allowing transit benefits to apply to Uber Memorial Bridge, ports among projects slated to get transportation grants MORE (D-Va.) said he was one of just a handful of Democrats on the floor when the voice vote occurred and that he was surprised when no recorded vote was requested.
“There was a voice vote and you could hear 'nos' all from our side of the aisle,” he said.
He said it was his understanding that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDemocratic convention more about Fantasyland than America Unions want one thing from Hillary tonight: A stake in TPP’s heart Dems urge Grayson to end Senate bid MORE's (D-Nev.) office pushed House leaders to not require a recorded vote because it was necessary to send some form of the doc fix to the upper chamber quickly.
“There were concerns raised by the Senate side,” he said. “They don't have the votes for an alternative. And then the alternative is everything expires and doctor's fees are negatively affected March 31.”
Asked if the maneuver was sneaky, Connolly quoted the fictional Frank Underwood, a master of Washington subterfuge from Netflix's "House of Cards" series.
“To quote the ‘House of Cards,’ you might say that, you might very well say that. But I cannot comment,” he quipped.
“I've been dying to do that,” he added.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the retiring dean of the House, mused to reporters, “I’ve seen a lot of dumb things, but I’ve never seen anything as comical as this.”
Bernie Becker and Peter Schroeder contributed.