The announcement came as the House's Rules Committee heard testimony for hours from various lawmakers who argued that their particular amendments be made "in order" for the debate. Among more than 50 amendments proposed was one from Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R, Va.) to give the public access to information on malpractice judgments against physicians.
The rules panel has the power to set the debate's parameters. With patient protection reformers at odds to varying degrees with House Republican leaders, the committee may attempt to shape the floor rules to the leaders' best possible advantage.
For example, Republican leaders have floated the possibility of forcing a final House vote on a combined patient protection/access package. But Norwood and Dingell emphasized yesterday that that would endanger passage for both bills. Democrats who otherwise support the patient protection bill, for example, might balk at the tax provisions.
"I understand the objection," Shadegg tells WebMD. He says that forcing a vote on a joint plan might be unreasonable. But he says that the House should send a joint protection/access bill to the Senate for conference negotiations.
Meanwhile, Republican leaders attempted to seize on the Census Bureau's announcement yesterday that the ranks of the nation's uninsured have swelled by 1 million to a total of more than 44 million. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R, Ill.) complained, for example, that "most Democrats and some Republicans have been touting particular managed care bills that lead to higher costs and more uninsured [Americans]."