This was a vote on whether to bring up 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. Technically, this vote was on a “question of consideration” – literally whether to “consider” or bring up the resolution.
House Democrats forced a vote on the question of consideration to protest a Republican 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 a 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.
House Democrats, however, were unanimously opposed the Republican plan to convert Medicare into a private insurance voucher system. In response to House Republicans having “deemed” such a plan passed by Congress, Democrats forced this vote on the question of consideration.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said: “…We have a responsibility to address our deficit. But cutting the lifeline for our seniors is not an act of courage; it's actually cowardly. Claiming to reduce the budget deficit on the backs of Americans who have paid into their retirement their entire lives not only harms American seniors but goes against the basic values of fairness and security that Americans cherish. Medicare guarantees a healthy and secure retirement for Americans who pay into it their whole lives. It represents the basic American values of fairness and respect for those seniors which Americans cherish. Siding with lobbyists to give insurance company bureaucrats control of Medicare does nothing to address the deficit, but it does a great deal to reduce health care for our seniors.”
Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) responded: “I would say that Republicans are not here to destroy Medicare. They are here to save Medicare. We have put forth a responsible plan that has been openly and continuously debated in the public forum and in this chamber about how we're going to move forward with the problem that we have in Medicare. It is a problem we cannot deny. Both sides of the aisle know that Medicare is on a path to bankruptcy. We have put forth a plan. We have put forth a plan that guarantees that we can deal with the problem in such a way that those who are on Medicare are not impacted and that those within a generation of retiring into Medicare are not impacted. Yet we're villainized by the other side for allegedly throwing grandma off the cliff--for taking away Medicare. That is not being honest with the American public. We will be honest with the American public. We recognize the problem in Medicare. We put forth a plan. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have not put forth a plan to deal with the problem. They want to engage in electioneering, politicking, and looking at the reelection efforts for 2012.”
The House agreed to this question of consideration by a vote of 234-183. All 234 Republicans present voted “yea.” All 183 Democrats present voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to bring up and debate 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.