GOP leadership offers phony cuts and real abuse of power

Today, the House considered legislation providing a one-year delay in a scheduled reduction in Medicare payments for physicians. This is the latest in delays in the reductions Congress has passed ever since 1997 when Congress changed the formula for Medicare reimbursements. The reductions, passed in 1997, were scheduled to go into effect in the early 2000s, but when it came time for the cuts to actually go into effect, Congress buckled under pressure from physicians, and began delaying the reductions.

The most controversial part of these "doc fixes" is the "offset," that is the spending reductions accompanying the delay in physicians reimbursements. The major offset of today's bill was to move the scheduled "sequester" cuts in Medicare up one year--from 2025 to 2024. That is right, the Congress's offset delaying a scheduled reduction in Medicare spending by assuming that a future Congress will not only abide by its promise to cut Medicare spending, but will allow the cut to go into effect one year in advance. This should be called the "Wimpy theory of budgeting," after the Popeye character who infamously promised to pay you Tuesday if you bought him a hamburger today.

The phony offset caused enough conservative Republicans to object to the bill that House GOP leadership would have had to pass it with Democratic support, thus once again violating the "majority of the majority" rule. However, since a majority of Democrats also objected to the bill, the GOP leadership did not have the votes to pass the bill.

So did they withdraw the bill to add real offsets? No, even though there was a pending motion to hold a roll-call vote on the bill, the House Leadership rushed the bill through on a voice vote over the audible objections of some of the few members on the floor.

Interesting, the member in the chair at the time is Arkansas Representative Steve Womack, the lead House champion of the National Internet Tax Mandate.

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