Three House Republicans are proposing to shift all health care jurisdiction away from the powerful Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees to a new Committee on Health Care, according to a 'Dear Colleague' letter they sent to Republicans Wednesday (Nov. 14), and are eying Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as a potential head of the proposed committee, a source close to the issue says. The lawmakers intend to offer the proposal as an amendment at the Republican Organizing Conference on Thursday, and the source says the idea has support from many of the outgoing GOP freshmen.
A health care lobbyist told Inside Health Policy there is little chance of such a committee becoming a reality. The Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce chairmen could not be reached for comment by press time.
The proposal is being pitched by Reps. Doc Hastings (R-WA), Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Reid Ribble (R-WI), who said in their email to Republican colleagues that the current committee setup is a "relic of decades of Democratic control," and if the party is committed to reforming the federal government and repealing the Affordable Care Act, establishment of a new health care committee represents the best chance.
A spokesperson for Hastings said the lawmaker has discussed the proposal with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and has also reached out to Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI). The discussion was part of a "member to member conversation" between Hastings and Boehner, the spokesperson said, adding that Hastings' office is hearing a lot of "positive things" about the proposal from the outgoing House freshmen. The spokesperson said that Hastings is eying Ryan as a possible chairman of the envisioned new health care panel.
The Committee on Health Care would be a permanent, standing committee with complete jurisdiction over all health care matters, according to the letter, and would allow Republicans to "elevate and ensure relentless oversight of Obamacare" including all regulations and actions by the administration. The committee would create a forum for health care solutions centered on individual choice and freedom, the letter says, and have jurisdiction over strengthening Medicare and improving Medicaid.
The new committee could also lay the groundwork for repealing the ACA in 2017 following President Barack Obama's departure from office, according to the letter.
The lawmakers concede in their Dear Colleague letter that some members will be apprehensive and argue that changing the committee jurisdictions is too hard to accomplish and too disruptive, or that such a move requires more time to be carefully thought out. But "to the critics it should be asked: how can we possibly repeal Obamacare if we cannot even reform the House over which we have total control?" the letter asks.
Hastings' spokesperson acknowledged that the proposal is "a bit unconventional" but added that the plan would improve the efficiency of the committee system.
The congressmen point out in the letter that the Republican Conference has the ability to change the committee structure as it organizes for the 113th Congress, where the GOP will continue to hold control of the House of Representatives, and say the party should move beyond the current antiquated committee structure. If the conference were to approve the amendment creating the new committee on Thursday, leadership would have two months to prepare for implementation before the new Congress begins, the letter says.