When Speaker John Boehner really wants to get something done, he gets it done.
If Congress did not act before Tuesday, doctors would face a 24 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursement rates. With the Senate yet to act, Boehner did not have any time to spare. But going through traditional procedures takes time and a faster process requires hard-to-reach supermajority support.
And since averting the cuts increases the budget deficit and would violate the recent budget agreement, Boehner needed a bill that would offset the costs. Over at the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been trying to craft a permanent solution satisfactory to doctors, but he has struggled to find a cost offset that would satisfy both parties.
What’s a speaker to do?
First, grab an accounting gimmick to mask the cost of bigger reimbursements for a year.
Second, wait until there aren’t many people in the House chamber.
And then, hold a quick voice vote.
Voila! Here’s your legislation.
Maybe all that’s a little loosey-goosey with the spirit of House rules, but hey, doctors were in trouble. Boehner did what he had to do.
It’s nice to know how far Boehner will go to stretch House procedure in the name of helping people in need, since today the Senate is expected to pass bipartisan legislation to temporarily reinstate jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, and retroactively pay benefits from January when the program lapsed.
If Boehner cares as much about the long-term unemployed as he does doctors, he will happily accept the cost offset agreed upon by Senate Republican and Democratic negotiators.
And not only will he put the bill on the floor, he will rush it through while conservatives are out eating lunch by scheduling another quick voice vote.
IF you are not convinced Boehner cares about the jobless as he does the doctors, then he may need some additional encouragement.
Click here to call your House representative to demand the House pass the Senate bill extending long-term unemployment insurance.