WASHINGTON – Congressional decorum fell to the wayside Tuesday during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing where Democrats and Republicans traded partisan shots over President Barack Obama’s signature health law.
The partisan bickering reached its climax hours into the hearing as Reps. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Bill Pascarell, D-N.J., went at it.
Pascarell got it started as he angrily challenged Republicans to explain to their constituents that repealing the Affordable Care Act – as the GOP has advocated – would result in a loss of coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
“What are you going to do about the approximately 17 million children with pre-existing conditions?” he asked. “Which one of you is going to stand up and tell the parents of those children the game is over.”
Griffin chimed in.
“You asked a question and I am going to answer it,” he said. “I would just tell you it is a false choice to say it is Obamacare or nothing. There are numerous proposals including the one I am a co-sponsor of that deals with pre-existing conditions.”
Pascarell seemed incredulous.
“Are you really serious?” he asked. “You can sit there and say you had a legitimate alternative after these years. We’ve gone through 44 votes – 48 votes now – of you trying to dismantle the legislation. You call that cooperation. I don’t,” Pascarell said.
The heated exchange came during a hearing where Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, appeared to answer questions about the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov.
Tavenner apologized for the problems that consumers have faced trying to visit the website as they shop for individual health insurance plans through the ACA health exchanges.
“The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people and is not acceptable,” she said.
Republican members of the committee focused on the failures of the website and also hammered the Obama administration over broken promises that ACA would not lead any American to lose health insurance plans that they liked.
Democrats on the committee pointed to the benefits of Obamacare, including that it prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Republicans have sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act since it was enacted four years ago. They have not rallied behind a single alternative to replace the law but have backed some proposals that would keep some of the more popular pieces of the law.
Griffin last week signed on as a co-sponsor of the American Health Care Reform Act, which would provide federal support for state “high risk pools” that cover sick people who otherwise could not get insurance. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, signed on as a co-sponsor when Rep. David Poe, R-Tenn., introduced the bill on Sept. 18.
Griffin is also a co-sponsor of several other health reform bills including this year’s “Medicare Patient Empowerment Act” and last year’s “Health Care Choice Act.”