A Republican proposal by Upton, second from right, to allow insurers to keep offering old insurance plans for another year passed the House on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The House easily passed Republican legislation on Friday allowing insurers to keep offering old insurance plans for another year in response to President Barack Obama’s broken “if you like it, you can keep it” promise.
The bill passed 261-157 with all but four Republicans joined by 39 Democrats backing the bill sponsored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. Those Democrats defected despite strong opposition from their party leadership and President Barack Obama, who, hours after the White House announced an administrative fix Thursday, vowed he would veto the Upton bill.
Democratic leaders feared throughout the week that the Upton bill would create a rift in party unity and give ammunition to Republicans to tout that both parties have lost confidence in the Obama administration.
Republicans touted the bill as a way to keep the president’s promise, while Democrats said it was designed to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic leaders crafted an alternative proposal aimed at giving cover to exasperated Democrats to vote no — including moderate 2014 “frontliners” — but that effort failed.
Unlike the Upton bill, the Democratic proposal, like Obama’s administrative fix, would not allow new customers to sign up for old plans.
And both proposals fell well short of a proposal by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., that would force insurers to permanently keep around old plans for existing customers.
The Democratic proposal, sold as “Landrieu-lite,” also was aimed at ensuring Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and state insurance commissioners can go after “bad actor” insurance companies.
During debate on the House floor Friday, the only Democrats who spoke about the Upton bill were those who opposed it, calling it tantamount to the 46th Republican vote to defund, delay or replace Obamacare since the GOP took over the House in the last Congress.
“I haven’t seen so much panic on the floor since 9/11,” said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. He said it would create massive confusion in the market.
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., called the Upton bill a “trojan horse.”
“Republicans are on a mission of destruction,” said Ways and Means ranking member Sander M. Levin, D-Mich.
“This will accomplish nothing for the American people,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.
Even Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., who at a closed-door meeting with White House officials blasted the White House for the many glitches in the health care law’s rollout, took to the floor to blast the Upton bill.
“I led the charge in my caucus, I told my caucus, if the president doesn’t come up with a fix, if leadership didn’t come up with an alternative, many of us would vote for the Upton bill,” Doyle said. “The good news is, the president has responded.”
Republicans rejected the accusations.
“This [bill] protects the people, not a political party,” said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., “not a president who doesn’t keep promises.”
Roll Call collected some of the highlights from the debate below: