Burning Down the House

House Republicans Lose Prescription Drug Vote, But Hold Vote Open to Change Two Votes and "Win"

For Immediate Release:

November 24, 2003

Contact:Stacey Farnen
(202) 225 - 3130

Democratic WhipSays America's Seniors Are the Losers in the Process

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic WhipSteny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this morning regarding the vote on the Republican Medicare Conference Report.   The vote was called at 2:58 a.m.and House Democratsprevailed by a vote of 216-218.  However, the Republican leadership refused to gavel the vote closed, leaving the vote open until 5:51 a.m.when two Republicans switched their "no" votes on the Conference Report to "yes," giving the Republicans a "win."

"Just before dawn today, House Republicans stole a 'victory' on the Medicare Conference Report, and it came at the expense of America's seniors.

"The more seniors learn about this Republican Medicare plan the more heat Republicans are going to start feeling.  This legislation offers a feeble prescription drug benefit.  It not only does nothing to make prescription drugs affordable, it explicitly prohibits the government from negotiating lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare's beneficiaries.  And it could lead to the privatization of Medicare, the bedrock of senior health care in America.

"House Republicans may feel that they made history tonight with passage of the Medicare Conference Report, but history will forever record the tainted nature of this vote.  Republicans in essence 'stole' this vote and gave up a bit of their souls in the process.  Their tactics demean the Members and this institution.  They offend our democratic traditions.  And, worst of all, they  cheat the American people, in this case our seniors.

"In 22 years of service in this body, I have never seen such an undemocratic subversion of the will of the House.  The American people, I believe, would be shocked if they knew such undemocratic tactics were used.  Republicans were defeated according to the rules, and they then changed the rules to claim 'victory.'

"Despite the egregious nature in which Republicans claimed this 'win,' it is perhaps fitting.  Throughout the deliberations of the Medicare conference committee, the Majority deliberately and undemocratically excluded Democratic conferees appointed by Speaker Dennis Hastert.  As a result, this Conference Report was the product of an odious process.  And this morning's vote, and abuse of process, only adds to the foul smell surrounding it."

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