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Roll Calls: House Agrees to Abortion Non-Discrimination and to Reduce Malpractice Awards

-House Passes Abortion Non-Discrimination Act
-House Votes to Reduce Medical Malpractice Awards

ROLL CALL:
House Passes AbortionNon-Discrimination Act

On September 25, by a vote of 229 to 189, the House passed the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (HR 4691). The bill would forbid the federal government or any state or local government that receives federal funding from discriminating against any health care provider, health insurer, hospital or health maintenance organization that refuses to perform abortions, pay for abortions or give abortion referrals.

The legislation was proposed in order to further define the "conscience clause" in 1996 legislation that supporters of HR 4691 say has been misinterpreted. Rep. Joe Pitts (R.-Pa.) explained that "some have read the 1996 law very narrowly, to say that it protects only residents and residency programs and only in a training context."

Rep. David Vitter (R.-La.) said that HR 4691 is simply a measure insuring that people cannot be forced to act contrary to their religious or moral beliefs. "The bill before us is, in fact, a much needed clarification of current law that was meant to provide full conscience protection to health entities, health providers who because of any moral convictions choose not to have anything to do with abortion," he said.

Vitter said that the bill would protect health-care providers from people who are actively trying to pass legislation forcing all hospitals to perform abortions. He said there are documented statements "from pro-abortion groups that they are actively engaged in a project to force all hospitals, often against their will or moral convictions, to provide abortions."

Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) said that the bill is not about a hospital’s right to refuse to provide abortions. He argued that the law is actually intended to allow HMOs to save money. "This bill would allow insurance companies and HMOs to ignore laws about patients’ information and gag rules because they want to cut costs, because they want to reduce benefits or for no reason at all," he said.

While Waxman claimed that "current law says that doctors and hospitals can exercise their religious or moral objections," he also admitted that states currently are able to make laws forcing a hospital to provide abortions.

Rep. Lois Capps (D.-Calif.), in arguing that Roman Catholic hospitals, for example, should be forced to perform abortions, said that "no one should have the authority to force his or her personal views upon others." She said that the bill "does just that by overruling a state’s rights to enforce laws." She added that hospitals, as institutions, should not have the same right to choose as individual people.

Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.) urged Congress not to forget what they were arguing about. "Abortion either dismembers unborn children or it chemically poisons unborn children and it does it in a horrific way," he said. Therefore, said Smith, Congress should be very careful to insure that people can act on their consciences in such a weighty issue.

A "yes" vote was a vote to pass the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act to prevent governments from discriminating against health facilities and organizations that refuse to perform abortions or give abortion referrals. A "no" vote was a vote against the bill and was, in effect, a vote to allow such discrimination.

FOR THE BILL: 229

REPUBLICANS FOR (192): Aderholt, Akin, Armey, Baker, Ballenger, Barr, Bartlett, Barton, Bereuter, Bilirakis, Blunt, Boehner, Bonilla, Boozman, Brady (TX), Brown (SC), Bryant, Burr, Burton, Buyer, Calvert, Camp, Cannon, Cantor, Capito, Chabot, Chambliss, Coble, Collins, Combest, Cooksey, Cox, Crane, Crenshaw, Culberson, Cunningham, Davis, Jo Ann, Davis, Tom, Deal, DeLay, DeMint, Diaz-Balart, Doolittle, Dreier, Duncan, Dunn, Ehlers, Ehrlich, Emerson, English, Everett, Ferguson, Flake, Fletcher, Foley, Forbes, Fossella, Gallegly, Ganske, Gekas, Gillmor, Goode, Goodlatte, Goss, Graham, Granger, Graves, Green (WI), Grucci, Gutknecht, Hansen, Hart, Hastings (WA), Hayes, Hayworth, Hefley, Herger, Hilleary, Hobson, Hoekstra, Hostettler, Hulshof, Hunter, Hyde, Isakson, Issa, Istook, Jenkins, Johnson, Sam, Johnson (IL), Jones (NC), Keller, Kennedy (MN), Kerns, King (NY), Kingston, Knollenberg, LaHood, Latham, LaTourette, Lewis (CA), Lewis (KY), Linder, LoBiondo, Lucas (OK), Manzullo, McCrery, McHugh, McInnis, McKeon, Mica, Miller, Gary, Miller, Jeff, Moran (KS), Myrick, Nethercutt, Ney, Northup, Norwood, Nussle, Osborne, Otter, Oxley, Paul, Pence, Peterson (PA), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Platts, Pombo, Portman, Pryce (OH), Putnam, Quinn, Radanovich, Ramstad, Regula, Rehberg, Reynolds, Riley, Rogers (KY), Rogers (MI), Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen, Royce, Ryan (WI), Ryun (KS), Saxton, Schaffer, Schrock, Sensenbrenner, Sessions, Shadegg, Shaw, Shimkus, Shuster, Simpson, Skeen, Smith (MI), Smith (NJ), Smith (TX), Souder, Stearns, Sullivan, Sununu, Tancredo, Tauzin, Taylor (NC), Terry, Thornberry, Thune, Tiahrt, Tiberi, Toomey, Upton, Vitter, Walden, Walsh, Wamp, Watkins (OK), Watts (OK), Weldon (FL), Weldon (PA), Weller, Whitfield, Wicker, Wilson (NM), Wilson (SC), Wolf, Young (AK), Young (FL)

DEMOCRATS FOR (37): Barcia, Berry, Borski, Clement, Costello, Cramer, Doyle, Gordon, Hall (TX), Holden, John, Kanjorski, Kildee, LaFalce, Langevin, Lipinski, Lucas (KY), Lynch, McIntyre, Mollohan, Murtha, Neal, Oberstar, Obey, Ortiz, Peterson (MN), Phelps, Pomeroy, Rahall, Roemer, Ross, Shows, Skelton, Stenholm, Stupak, Tanner, Taylor (MS)

AGAINST THE BILL: 189

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (24): Bass, Biggert, Boehlert, Bono, Castle, Frelinghuysen, Gibbons, Gilchrest, Gilman, Greenwood, Horn, Houghton, Johnson (CT), Kelly, Kirk, Kolbe, Leach, Miller, Dan, Morella, Ose, Shays, Simmons, Sweeney, Thomas

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (164): Abercrombie, Ackerman, Allen, Andrews, Baca, Baird, Baldacci, Baldwin, Barrett, Becerra, Bentsen, Berkley, Berman, Bishop, Blagojevich, Blumenauer, Bonior, Boswell, Boucher, Boyd, Brady (PA), Brown (FL), Brown (OH), Capps Jefferson, Capuano, Cardin, Carson (IN), Carson (OK), Clay, Clayton, Clyburn, Condit, Conyers, Coyne, Crowley, Cummings, Davis (CA), Davis (FL), Davis (IL), DeFazio, DeGette, Delahunt, DeLauro, Deutsch, Dicks, Dingell, Doggett, Dooley, Edwards, Engel, Eshoo, Etheridge, Evans, Farr, Fattah, Filner, Ford, Frank, Frost, Gephardt, Gonzalez, Green (TX), Gutierrez, Harman, Hastings (FL), Hill, Hilliard, Hinchey, Hinojosa, Hoeffel, Holt, Honda, Hooley, Hoyer, Inslee, Israel, Jackson (IL), Jackson-Lee (TX), Johnson, E. B., Jones (OH), Kennedy (RI), Kilpatrick, Kind (WI), Kleczka, Lampson, Lantos, Larsen (WA), Larson (CT), Lee, Levin, Lewis (GA), Lofgren, Lowey, Luther, Maloney (CT), Markey, Matheson, Matsui, McCarthy (MO), McCarthy (NY), McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, McKinney, McNulty, Meehan, Meek (FL), Meeks (NY), Menendez, Millender-Mc-, Donald, Miller, George, Moore, Moran (VA), Nadler, Napolitano, Owens, Pallone, Pascrell, Pastor, Payne, Pelosi, Price (NC), Rangel, Reyes, Rivers, Rodriguez, Rothman, Roybal-Allard, Rush, Sabo, Sanchez, Sandlin, Sawyer, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott, Serrano, Sherman, Slaughter, Smith (WA), Snyder, Solis, Spratt, Stark, Strickland, Tauscher, Thompson (CA), Thompson (MS), Tierney, Turner, Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Velazquez, Visclosky, Waters, Watson (CA), Watt (NC), Waxman, Weiner, Wexler, Woolsey, Wu, Wynn

INDEPENDENTS AGAINST (1): Sanders (VT)

NOT VOTING: 14

REPUBLICANS (6): Bachus, Callahan, Cubin, Roukema, Sherwood, Stump

DEMOCRATS (8): Kaptur, Kucinich, Maloney (NY), Mascara, Mink, Olver, Thurman, Towns

ROLL CALL:
House Votes to Reduce Medical Malpractice Awards

On September 26, by a vote of 217 to 203, the House passed the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health Care (HEALTH) Act (HR 4600). The bill was designed to cut health care costs by reducing the amount of money doctors now have to pay in liability insurance. The measure allows plaintiffs to recover full economic damages, but puts a cap of $250,000 or double the economic damages-whichever is greater-on the amount of non-economic punitive damages a court can award patients in malpractice suits.

The HEALTH Act would also require suits to be filed within three years of an injury or one year of its discovery and would impose a sliding scale on lawyers’ contingency fees in malpractice cases: 40% of the first $50,000 in damages. 33.3% of the next $50,000, 25% of the next $500,000 and 15% of any amount over $600,000.

The Senate in July killed a weaker measure, so there seems little chance it will act on this bill before adjourning.

Supporters of the bill say that doctors are leaving many states where they can’t afford to pay the liability insurance. This has resulted in fewer options for patients, especially in rural and low-income areas and in high-risk areas of treatment. "What we are trying to do," said Rep. Chris Cox (R.-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bill, "is save the patients from a system that is right now falling down all around them."

Many House Democrats opposed the bill, saying that severely injured patients would not receive adequate punitive damages. Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.) argued that if a person with AIDS doesn’t realize that they have it within three years of being treated, they are not allowed to file a malpractice suit.

Conyers also argued that the bill would not make medical practice cheaper for doctors because only the insurance companies would save money under the legislation. He said, "[T]he problem with this bill is that rather than help doctors and victims, this bill really does a great favor to insurance companies, HMOs and the manufacturers of defective medical products and the pharmaceuticals, as usual.”

Agreeing with Conyers, Rep. Edward Markey (D.-Mass.) brought up a rejected amendment to the bill that "says that any amount of money that a jury renders above $250,000, let us say $1 million, that the court would then give that money over to a court-appointed trustee and the court-appointed trustee would then ensure that the insurance premiums for the physicians inside that area would be lowered."

Rep. Cox responded that this would defeat the whole purpose of the legislation because would not change the amount of money insurance companies have to pay and, therefore, would not lower insurance costs for doctors. "The way this amendment was written," said Cox, "the premiums would still have been high because the awards still would have had to be paid, this time to a trustee instead of to the trial lawyers, but the premiums would not have come down. That is why doctors did not support the amendment.”

A "yes" vote was in support of the HEALTH Act to limit medical malpractice awards. A "no" vote was a vote against any caps.

FOR THE BILL: 217

REPUBLICANS FOR (203): Aderholt, Akin, Armey, Baker, Ballenger, Barr, Bartlett, Barton, Bass, Bereuter, Biggert, Bilirakis, Blunt, Boehlert, Boehner, Bonilla, Bono, Boozman, Brady (TX), Brown (SC), Bryant, Burr, Burton, Buyer, Calvert, Camp, Cannon, Cantor, Capito, Castle, Chabot, Chambliss, Collins, Combest, Cooksey, Cox, Crane, Crenshaw, Cubin, Culberson, Cunningham, Davis, Jo Ann, Davis, Tom, Deal, DeLay, DeMint, Dreier, Duncan, Dunn, Ehlers, Emerson, English, Everett, Ferguson, Fletcher, Foley, Forbes, Fossella, Frelinghuysen, Gallegly, Ganske, Gekas, Gibbons, Gilchrest, Gillmor, Goode, Goodlatte, Goss, Granger, Graves, Green (WI), Greenwood, Gutknecht, Hansen, Hart, Hastings (WA), Hayes, Hayworth, Hefley, Herger, Hilleary, Hobson, Hoekstra, Horn, Hostettler, Houghton, Hulshof, Hunter, Hyde, Isakson, Issa, Jenkins, Johnson, Sam, Johnson (CT), Jones (NC), Keller, Kelly, Kennedy (MN), Kerns, Kingston, Kirk, Knollenberg, Kolbe, LaHood, Latham, LaTourette, Leach, Lewis (CA), Lewis (KY), Linder, LoBiondo, Lucas (OK), Manzullo, McCrery, McHugh, McInnis, McKeon, Mica, Miller, Dan, Miller, Gary, Miller, Jeff, Moran (KS), Myrick, Nethercutt, Ney, Northup, Norwood, Nussle ,Osborne, Ose, Otter, Oxley, Pence, Peterson (PA), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Platts, Pombo, Portman, Pryce (OH), Putnam, Quinn, Radanovich, Ramstad, Regula, Rehberg, Reynolds, Riley, Rogers (KY), Rogers (MI), Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen, Royce, Ryan (WI), Ryun (KS), Saxton, Schaffer, Schrock, Sensenbrenner, Sessions, Shadegg, Shaw, Shays, Sherwood, Shimkus, Shuster, Simmons, Simpson, Skeen, Smith (MI), Smith (NJ), Smith (TX), Souder, Stearns, Sullivan, Sununu, Sweeney, Tancredo, Tauzin, Taylor (NC), Thomas, Thornberry, Thune, Tiahrt, Tiberi, Toomey, Upton, Vitter, Walden, Walsh, Wamp, Watkins (OK), Watts (OK), Weldon (FL), Weldon (PA), Weller, Whitfield, Wicker, Wilson (NM), Wolf, Young (AK), Young (FL)

DEMOCRATS FOR (14): Boyd, Cramer, Dooley, Edwards, Hall (TX), Harman, Holden, Lucas (KY), Moran (VA), Murtha, Peterson (MN), Pomeroy, Stenholm, Taylor (MS)

AGAINST THE BILL: 203

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (15): Coble, Diaz-Balart, Doolittle, Ehrlich, Flake, Gilman, Graham, Grucci, Istook, Johnson (IL), King (NY), Morella, Paul, Terry, Wilson (SC)

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (187): Abercrombie, Ackerman, Allen, Andrews, Baca, Baird, Baldacci, Baldwin, Barrett, Becerra, Bentsen, Berkley, Berman, Berry, Bishop, Blagojevich, Blumenauer, Borski, Boswell, Boucher, Brady (PA), Brown (FL), Brown (OH), Capps, Capuano, Cardin, Carson (IN), Carson (OK), Clay, Clayton, Clement, Clyburn, Condit, Conyers, Costello, Coyne, Crowley, Cummings, Davis (CA), Davis (FL), Davis (IL), DeFazio, DeGette, Delahunt, DeLauro, Deutsch, Dicks, Dingell, Doggett, Doyle, Engel, Eshoo, Etheridge, Evans, Farr, Fattah, Filner, Ford, Frank, Frost, Gephardt, Gonzalez, Gordon, Green (TX), Gutierrez, Hastings (FL), Hill, Hilliard, Hinchey, Hinojosa, Hoeffel, Holt, Honda, Hooley, Hoyer, Inslee, Jackson (IL), Jackson-Lee (TX), Jefferson, John, Johnson, E. B., Jones (OH), Kanjorski, Kaptur, Kennedy (RI), Kildee, Kilpatrick, Kind (WI), Kleczka, Kucinich, LaFalce, Lampson, Langevin, Lantos, Larsen (WA), Larson (CT), Lee, Levin, Lewis (GA), Lipinski, Lofgren, Lowey, Luther, Lynch, Maloney (CT), Markey, Mascara, Matheson, Matsui, McCarthy (MO), McCarthy (NY), McCollum, McGovern, McIntyre, McKinney, McNulty, Meehan, Meek (FL), Meeks (NY), Menendez, Millender-Mc-, Donald, Miller, George, Mollohan, Moore, Nadler, Napolitano, Neal, Oberstar, Obey, Olver, Ortiz, Owens, Pallone, Pascrell, Pastor, Payne, Pelosi, Phelps, Price (NC), Rahall, Rangel, Reyes, Rivers, Rodriguez, Roemer, Ross, Rothman, Roybal-Allard, Rush, Sabo, Sanchez, Sandlin, Sawyer, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott, Serrano, Sherman, Shows, Skelton, Slaughter, Smith (WA), Snyder, Solis, Spratt, Stark, Strickland, Stupak, Tanner, Tauscher, Thompson (MS), Tierney, Towns, Turner, Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Velazquez, Visclosky, Waters, Watson (CA), Watt (NC), Waxman, Weiner, Wexler, Woolsey, Wu, Wynn

INDEPENDENTS AGAINST (1): Sanders (VT)

NOT VOTING: 12

REPUBLICANS (4): Bachus, Callahan, Roukema, Stump

DEMOCRATS (8): Barcia, Bonior, Israel, Maloney (NY), McDermott, Mink, Thompson (CA), Thurman

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