This week, House GOP leaders and two committee chairmen are forcing their Members to vote for a federal tort reform bill that their own favorite legal experts and many Republicans in Congress have said is unconstitutional. The leaders and the chairmen of the House Judiciary and the Energy & Commerce committees are forcing votes for H.R. 5, the bill to impose federal limits on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, as a way to offset potential budget cuts of billions of dollars in spending over the next ten years. Eventually we’ll see H.R. 5 on the House floor again, for the second time in two months, with House Republicans who oppose it on constitutional grounds forced to vote for it under arm-twisting by leadership.
Proponents of H.R. 5 cite an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that enacting H.R. 5 will save somewhere between $40 and 60 billion dollars, depending on the version. I’ve written before about the CBO’s many failures at ten-year budgeting and on its flawed methodology for calculating savings from H.R. 5. Recently, CBO admitted that its estimate of the costs of implementing Obama are was wrong by a whopping 100%. Republicans know this and cite the CBO’s failures in Obamacare, yet are using its H.R. 5 estimate as a basis for pushing the bill in a budget exercise.
This exercise doesn’t write an actual law and won’t be even considered by the Senate. It won’t save a dime in federal spending. And you won’t see House Republican leaders use the alternative health care budget proposed by the Republican Study Committee, the group of over 100 conservative House Republicans, which doesn’t include any tort reform. Neither will they offer Rep. Paul Broun’s “OPTION Act,” which is endorsed by the conservative FreedomWorks group in part because it doesn’t have a “federalism problem” (their words).
All this is just a lust for cash. It’s solely an exercise in bashing trial lawyers to fill a budget hole and to attract campaign contributions from “Big Medicine.” Constitutional rights and the expert opinions of the Randy Barnetts of the world don’t matter to the GOP Establishment forcing Members into the vote by not offering real health care reform. The so-called savings will be used to prevent real cuts in wasteful programs.
The final question is whether Tea Party activists, whom the leaders need to keep their positions, will see through this charade and withhold their help this November in enough races to at least send a signal. That awareness should be our next step.