In the last month, two of Second District Rep. Angie Craig’s bills passed in the House.
The first, an extension for small-business loans during the coronavirus, passed the Senate on and was signed by President Donald Trump three days later.
But the second bill, which would expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act, is waiting for a vote it will likely never get in the Senate. It’s in good company: there are more than 400 bills that have been passed in the House this term only to languish on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk, never to receive a committee hearing or floor debate — let alone a vote.
In the 116th Congress, the Senate, which is currently led by Republicans, has only been willing to set up votes on only a small number of bills from the House, which is currently led by Democrats.
Bills the Senate will not pass
At the end of June, the House passed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act.
The bill, sponsored by Craig, makes some changes to programs established by the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, it pushes states to expand Medicaid by giving them additional federal funding and adopts some provisions that require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate the price of at least 25 drugs each year with their respective manufacturers. It would also expand eligibility for subsidies for health insurance purchased through exchanges for those with higher incomes than under current law.
The bill passed mostly on party lines. Two Republicans, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, voted yes (Van Drew was a Democrat until 2020 when he switched parties over the impeachment of Trump). Only one Democrat, Collin Peterson of Minnesota’s Seventh District, voted no.
The votes on the bill are a continuation of a contentious battle over health care policy that’s been argued back and forth between Republicans and Democrats since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010. The drug-pricing negotiation provisions in Craig’s bill actually mirror H.R. 3, the The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, another health care bill that passed the House in December 0f 2019.
“The ACA was passed a decade ago in this country,” Craig said. “Why can’t we put the politics of this aside and just say, let’s improve our health care system?”
Prior to voting against Craig’s bill, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas made basically the same argument: “To my Democratic colleagues and friends I say, stop playing political games with health care.” Currently, the Trump administration and Republicans actively support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act via a lawsuit currently being decided by the Supreme Court.
But Republican objections to the bill don’t matter so much with Democrats in the majority, and Craig’s bill passed 234-179. The Senate is another matter.
Sen. Tina Smith calls the Senate a “legislative graveyard.” McConnell, who as majority leader…