Cross-posted with permission from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) blog.
The House of Representatives is currently considering a bill, H.R. 5, which would reform medical malpractice laws. Several Congresswomen drafted an amendment to this bill which would have limited the bill’s malpractice protections if the malpractice claim is based on a violation of the health care reform law related to the women’s preventive health services. The Congresswomen went through the usual steps that an amendment must go through before it can be proposed. They worked with the Office of Legislative Counsel in drafting it. It was reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office who said its provisions would have no cost. The House Parliamentarian declared that it was germane, meaning that it was related to the underlying bill so that it could be proposed. The next step before the amendment could be debated on the floor was to have the Rules Committee allow the amendment. And then the Rules Committee attempted to silence these women, just as Rep. Issa tried to silence Sandra Fluke.
The Rules Committee essentially functions as a gatekeeper to the House floor. Once a bill is passed out of the committee it originates in, it is sent to the Rules Committee for a Resolution. The Resolution lays out how long the bill will be debated, what amendments can be brought, and other procedural matters. The Rules Committee determines exactly what the Resolution looks like for each bill. When the Rules Committee passes the Resolution, the Resolution and bill are sent to the floor together.
The Congresswomen submitted the amendment to H.R. 5 to the Rules Committee – you can see it right here on the Rule Committee website. Rep. Drier, the chair of the Rules Committee, stated that the Committee wasn’t going to make that amendment in order. Translation: there would be no debate on that amendment. He provided no rationale as to why he prevented debate on a perfectly acceptable amendment. If he was unwilling to provide a rationale, I’ll take the liberty of offering up a few possibilities he might have been thinking of: “Because members of my party inevitably put our foot in our mouth when we talk about women’s health.” “Because it’s an election year and I don’t want to lose more votes on this.” “Because I’m in charge here.”
I’m guessing the real reason is something along the lines of: “Because I don’t want you to talk about the importance of women’s health.” You would think they would have learned their lesson when the House Committee on the Judiciary rejected Sandra Fluke’s testimony. We won’t be silenced when it comes to the importance of the women’s preventive health services.