by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The bill passed in a 30-second voice vote with very few members on the House floor.
The “doc fix” is a temporary patch to prevent a 24 percent cut to the amount of money the government pays doctors who take care of Medicare patients. The cut will take effect on April 1 if Congress does not move to prevent it.
Owing to the tight deadline, leadership opted to bring the bill straight to the floor “under suspension of the rules,” meaning it needed a two-thirds vote to pass — a higher threshold than the normal simple majority. But it was not clear that a sufficient number of votes could be found.
The bill is somewhat controversial — some lawmakers want to strike a deal for a more permanent solution. Others, like Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, think the way the patch is paid for — which partly involves shifting sequester cuts to Medicare from 2025 to 2024 — is a “gimmick.”
But the potential to not get enough votes turned out not to be an issue. Instead, most members did not get to vote at all.
Shortly after noon, the bill was passed by voice vote, with the chair — Republican Rep. Steve Womack — deciding that two-thirds of the very few members in the room had said “aye.” Most members were unaware the vote was taking place and missed it, as did quite a few reporters.