Real life House of Cards in House of Representatives
March 27th, 2014
04:34 PM ET
9 years ago

Real life House of Cards in House of Representatives

Washington (CNN) – What happened in the House Thursday was something out of an episode of the television series "House of Cards," a show about intrigue and sneaky deals in the nation's capital.

Facing defeat on a bill to head off major cuts to physicians who treat Medicare patients, House GOP leaders abruptly pulled it from the floor Thursday morning. They called a recess, sending most members back to their offices to await word on the schedule for the day.

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Republican and Democratic leaders huddled behind closed doors. Then, a surprise move. While people were still in their offices, the same bill was brought up and quickly passed by a voice vote. Members were caught off guard when they showed up on the House floor and learned the bill had passed.

Both parties were in cahoots on the unusual legislative maneuver circumventing an actual roll call vote on the measure.

Senate Democrats and House Republicans have been at loggerheads over how to prevent an annual cut in federal reimbursements to Medicare doctors. Leaders on both sides worked on a one year deal that would punt talks on a permanent solution until after the midterm election.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid negotiated the temporary so called "doc fix" with top House Republicans to avoid any impact on seniors' medical care. But many House conservatives objected to the fix because of its cost. That meant GOP leaders needed a bloc of House Democrats to get it through. House Democrats, however, were also split on the measure because many wanted a longer term deal. Leaders were in a quandary. Monday is the deadline to fix the cuts to Medicare doctors, and the House was about to leave town for the weekend.

Rep. Gerry Connelly of Virginia said he and other Democrats who happened to be on the floor were totally surprised when they heard the same bill that was pulled earlier was coming up for a vote. He and other Democrats quickly yelled "no," but the gavel came down and the presiding officer announced the bill passed.

Asked if the move was sneaky, Connelly avoided criticizing his own leaders, but quoted TV politician Frank Underwood, the main character of House of Cards, "'you might say that, you might very well say that, but I cannot comment.'"

Even those who wanted an actual vote faced a dilemma because if the bill failed seniors across the country would be angry at Congress for not coming up with a solution.

Republican Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, a physician, opposed the bill and the process that let it go through so suddenly. But he admitted he knew GOP leaders were talking about this strategy.

"Many of us like me don't like it enough to vote for it, but the problem is, if we kill it, if we let it go down, then all of the sudden it expires and 24% cuts across the board to physicians occur," Fleming told reporters.

One exasperated Democrat, Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, asked about what transpired, said "I didn't know it happened. You know what – we should be voting on it."

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, speaking on the House floor later on Thursday, said he was convinced he and other opponents secured enough votes to block the short term deal so he went back to his office when the recess was called.

When the vote happened Gohmert didn't make it back in time to object, and he decried the tactic, saying, "you need to be able to trust your own leadership."

Pressed whether the move undermined the democratic process, Fleming replied, "it does, but again this is what leadership gave us on both sides."

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Roma victor

    You are quoting Frances Urquart, the British MP, not Frank Underwood.

    March 28, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |

    Keystone cops in the House. November comes quickly for ALL of them.

    March 28, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  3. Juergen

    Your government at work. Or not.

    March 28, 2014 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  4. george

    I don't agree with the way the republicans did this, but where was the outrage when prince reid changed the rules in the senate in his favor.

    March 28, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  5. iceload

    It doesn't matter. We still live in an era of runaway healthcare costs that Obamacare doesn't address. And now govt will subsidize the 7% yearly increase in healthcare costs.

    March 28, 2014 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  6. TONE


    Politics do make strange bedfellows, no? This another good reason to get the Federal Government out of collecting and disbursing money in most cases, and this case. And the National Debt just keeps rising.

    So who do you want to collect and disburse corporations they've done a stellar job during the bush years do you guys ever research?

    March 28, 2014 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  7. phatdaddy51

    whatever it takes to thwart the ultra cons.......everyone has known for several years that boehner was gonna need help from dems to keep the gop under control......hastert rule be damned when a bill needs to get passed

    March 28, 2014 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  8. Gurgyl

    Nothing wrong with ACA Law. Yes, it is a law. The problem is GOP corruption in here. Kick them out. Already 8 million signed under this law.

    March 28, 2014 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  9. RAL

    Good to see this on pass and about time if it has to do with Senior healthcare cuts are made yet Medicaid pays for everything. Thing is we had our kids they are grown up and at the mercy of Obama for another 3 years. So we can't claim them to receive benefits those who have kids aren't married and keep having them . So they can live on Welfare. Some do this. I know many need the help but time to stop faulting Seniors for being on Social Security and Medicare
    which is hard to live on and We paid for with years of Work Yes Work! I worked since age 16 to 73. Even when my kids were babies I always did something never was on Welfare even when we needed it. Didn't know we could get help our families help a bit but we learned to tough it out and things got better. I am ashamed of the way Politicians have reduced our Pride in the best country in the world with greed and their power hungry ways. This President has done more harm than any other. Better vet the next guy ourselves find out all we can before voting another unqualified person into office ! Once was not only enough but very dangerous to our economy security and Future for our Kids and theirs..

    March 28, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  10. Solomon Walker

    Town selectmen perform this feat frequently in New England, and usually this is what keeps the public in the dark about most relevant issues. Public finds out after the fact and that they could have attended the hearing had they known it was going to actually take place for that agenda item.

    March 28, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
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