WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives approved a rules package on Wednesday, the first day of business for the 112th Congress, that will dictate the way the legislature operates this year and reflects a shift to Republican control of the lower chamber. The bill passed on a party-line vote, with 240 Republicans in favor and 191 Democrats against.
One measure that didn't make it into the rules package was a proposal by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) that would have required all members to disclose whether they are taking advantage of their federal health insurance plan within 15 days of taking the oath of office. Crowley's measure also split on a party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
On MSNBC's "Hardball" Wednesday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Dems' House fundraising arm, accused Republicans of a double standard in blocking the disclosure:
ISRAEL: Every Republican voted to hide their own government health care, while many of them are pledging to repeal health care for everyone else. So, you go from hypocrisy to hypocrisy; from broken promise to broken promise. And this is just the first day of the new Congress.
MATTHEWS: You mean, they didn't want to admit that they're taking health care?
ISRAEL: This is a very straightforward amendment that we offered, that, if you're going to take government-sponsored health care and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, simply disclose. Let your constituents know that you are taking that government health care. Every single Republican voted to hide their health care while many of them are pledging to repeal it for their constituents.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also sounded off on the proposal's defeat, writing via Twitter, "0: # of House R's voting to disclose if they've signed up for federal health benefits (as they try to repeal your coverage)."
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the Democrats' attacks were disingenuous. "This misguided line of attack is 'junk food' political rhetoric: superficially appealing, but utterly empty," Steel said. "Members of Congress, including Rep. Israel and Minority Leader Pelosi, get the same type of employer-sponsored health care coverage from private-sector companies as tens of millions of Americans. That has nothing to do with the Democrats' health care law, which is already destroying jobs, and will ultimately bankrupt our country."
Crowley has been pursuing Republicans over health insurance for months. In November, he wrote a letter to Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying that Republicans who want to repeal health care reform should "walk the walk" and forgo their government-sponsored health plans.
A handful of Republicans have already said they won't be taking the federal health plan, including Reps. Sandy Adams (Fla.), Bill Johnson (Ohio), Mike Kelly (Penn.), Bobby Schilling (Ill.), Joe Walsh (Ill.) and Daniel Webster (Fla.). Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) recently said he doesn't need to use the federal plan because he's already on Medicare -- another government-run program.