U.S. House Condemns Move to Switch Portion of Medicaid Funds to State-Regulated Block Grant


The House will take up bills to protect wilderness during the week of Feb. 10, while the Senate will vote on asserting congressional authority over any U.S. military strikes against Iran.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted last week to condemn a Trump administration plan to scale back Medicaid’s traditional status as an entitlement program, in which everyone who meets income or disability criteria are guaranteed set minimum benefits.

Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed to allow states to shift some of their Medicaid offerings to a block-grant program. In a block-grant program, states would set their own rules for what is covered and cap the amount that Medicaid would pay for patient care in a given year.

The measure (H Res 826) to condemn the plan was non-binding. The administration’s plan would mainly affect the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Pre-ACA Medicaid programs in all states would continue to function on an entitlement basis, with guaranteed health care benefits. Alabama at this point has not expanded Medicaid under the ACA offer.

All of Alabama’s Republican House members who voted on the resolution opposed it. Voting against it were Republican Reps. Mike Rogers, District 3, Robert Aderholt, District 4, Mo Brooks, District 5, and Gary Palmer, District 6. Not voting were Republican Reps. Bradley Byrne, District 1, and Martha Roby, District 2; and Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, District 7.

During debate on the proposal, Michael Doyle, D-Pa., said: “Block grants do not strengthen the Medicaid program and they do not protect Americans … . Republicans have been trying to cut Medicaid for 30 years. This is just the latest attempt. They most recently failed to cut Medicaid coverage when they were in the majority and tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act … . Now the Trump administration is trying to go it alone.”

Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said “the Trump administration would allow states more flexibility to manage their Medicaid expansion population by choosing to accept their federal funds in a per-person or lump-sum basis. States would be able to (use) that money to more efficiently treat these patients … .The Medicaid program was built to be a safety net for our children and the poor — not to be our nation’s largest insurer.”

More Votes by the House

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on other major issues during the legislative week ending Feb. 7.

Expanding Labor Laws and Worker Rights:

Voting 224 for and 194 against, the House on Feb. 6 passed a Democratic-sponsored bill (HR 2474) that would amend U.S. labor laws and regulations in order to expand union membership and strengthen employee rights to bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions.

In part, the bill would establish the right to organize as a civil right enforceable in federal court; make it difficult for employers to classify “gig economy” workers as independent contractors to prevent them from joining unions; establish penalties of up to $50,000 per violation for employers who break the law to discourage workers from organizing; enable employees to file class-action lawsuits over working conditions; establish a mediation and arbitration process to guide initial contract negotiations between newly formed unions and companies; ease the prohibition on unions conducting secondary boycotts; effectively void state right-to-work laws; require employers to provide detailed employee information to union organizers; and ensure that workers with multiple employers can negotiate directly with the one exercising the most direct control over their conditions of employment.

Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said “the right to organize is rooted in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects the right of the people to speak, to assemble and to petition for a redress (of) grievances. All of these rights have been under severe attack over the last several decades of union-busting and interference with the right of the people to organize into unions.”

Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said the bill “is nothing more than a requirement that workers become members of (a) labor union. Republicans support the right of employees to form a labor union, but it should be a choice of every individual worker.”

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: None

Voting no: Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer

Not voting: Byrne, Roby, Sewell

Preserving State Right-To-Work Laws:

Voting 187 for and 232 against, the House on Feb. 6 defeated a GOP-sponsored amendment that sought to strip HR 2474 (above) of language that would effectively void the right-to-work laws now operative in 27 states. Under those laws, employees are entitled to receive all the benefits of a union contract without having to pay fees or dues to the bargaining unit that negotiated on their behalf. The bill would compel these non-union members to pay union dues.

Sponsor Rick Allen, R-Ga., said: “No American should be forced to pay for representation and political activities that they do not agree with, and that is what will happen if we take away states’ authority to enact right-to-work laws. My amendment will protect states’ right-to-work laws so that union dues are voluntary, giving power to workers, not union bosses, who pocket these benefits from mandatory dues.”

Brad Sherman, D-Calif., said: “Right-to-work provisions undermine the right to unionize because our basic labor law requires a union to represent all those in the bargaining unit, and everyone in the bargaining unit benefits from the union contract. If you tell people you don’t have to join, you don’t have to pay the union dues, you don’t have to pay a fee and you still get all the benefits, then right-to-work is really code for right to free ride.”

A yes vote was to adopt the amendment.


Voting yes: Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Voting no: None

Not voting: Byrne, Roby, Sewell

Blocking Rebuke of Speaker Pelosi:

Voting 224 for and 193 against, the House on Feb. 6 blocked an attempt by Republicans to rebuke Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for having torn apart on national television a copy of President Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 4. As a privileged motion, this measure (H Res 832) was not debatable.

A yes vote was in opposition to rebuking the speaker.


Voting yes: None

Voting no: Byrne, Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Not voting: Roby, Sewell

Providing Disaster Aid to Puerto Rico:

Voting 237 for and 161 against, the House on Feb. 7 passed a bill (HR 5687) that would provide Puerto Rico with about $5 billion in disaster aid, including $18 million for electrical grid repairs, to help it recover from earthquakes this year and hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The bill also delivers $16 billion in tax breaks over 10 years centered on child tax credits and earned income tax credits for individuals and households on the island and excise taxes on rum sales.

Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., said: “Puerto Rico needs our help. Without it, roads will remain unpassable, schools will remain closed, and the poor will become poorer.”

Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said the bill “provides additional billions in aid without any accountability measures. Existing disaster aid should be expended before appropriating” any additional funds.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate.


Voting yes: None

Voting no: Rogers, Aderholt, Brooks, Palmer 

Not voting: Byrne, Roby, Sewell


Acquitting Trump on Article I – Abuse of Power:

Voting 48 for and 52 against, the Senate on Feb. 5 did not convict President Trump on the first of two articles of impeachment approved by the House. Article I charged Trump with having abused the power of the presidency by withholding military aid and an Oval Office visit from Ukraine as pressure to obtain personal political favors from Ukrainian officials aimed at boosting his 2020 reelection prospects.

Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said: “The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did. The president asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. The president withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so. The president delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders. The president’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”

Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said: “It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold U.S. aid to encourage this investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

A yes vote was in favor of removing the president from office.


Voting yes: Doug Jones, D 

Voting no: Richard Shelby, R 

Acquitting Trump on Article II – Obstruction of Congress:

By a vote of 47 for and 53 against, the Senate on Feb. 5 did not convict President Trump on the second article of impeachment approved by the House. Article II charged Trump with having unlawfully obstructed Congress by directing executive branch officials and agencies to not comply with subpoenas for witnesses and documents submitted by the House in its impeachment inquiry.

Doug Jones, D-Ala., said: “The president’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril. That belief, unprecedented in the history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand. To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistleblower or witness will ever come forward, and no future president, Republican or Democrat, will be subject to congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution even when the president has so clearly abused his office and violated the public trust.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: “The U.S. Senate was made for moments like this. The framers predicted that factional fever might dominate House majorities from time to time. They knew the country would need a firewall to keep partisan flames from scorching our republic. So they created the Senate – out of `necessity,’ James Madison wrote, `of some stable institution in the government.’ Today, we will fulfill this founding purpose. We will reject this incoherent case that comes nowhere near – nowhere near – justifying the first presidential removal in history.”

A yes vote was in favor of removing the president from office.


Voting yes: Jones

Voting no: Shelby