This just in at Talking Points Memo:
In a letter to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted their original opposition to Obamacare, reiterated their intent to repeal it entirely, and declared that they would not make any appointments to the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
The IPAB is a 15-member panel whose members must be confirmed by the Senate. The President selects three members himself and is required by law to seek three recommendations each from the top Democrat and Republican in each chamber. With Thursdayâ€™s letter, Boehner and McConnell refused to make any recommendations.
As I remember, IPAB is a panel set up to recommend ways to reduce Medicare costs. The panel may not recommend cuts to benefits or increase premiums. It meets only when Medicare costs are increasing faster than economic growth. Congress may review and vote to override the recommendations, but otherwise they automatically go into effect.
â€œBecause the law will give IPABâ€™s 15 unelected, unaccountable individuals the ability to deny seniors access to innovative care, we respectfully decline to recommend appointments,â€ Boehner and McConnell wrote in the letter.
But there is a catch: if IPAB fails to do its work for any reason, the Health and Human Services secretary must order the cuts herself. So in a way, Boehner and McConnell are surrendering some of their power in order to appear as though theyâ€™re thwarting Obamacare â€” when in reality theyâ€™re merely turning over more control to the executive branch.
So what Boehner and McConnell are doing is just obstruction for the sake of obstruction.
Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted a meeting of the panel on Thursday, blocking a vote on President Obamaâ€™s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
The eight Republicans, led by the ranking member Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, said they took the action to protest what they called an inadequate response by the nominee, Gina McCarthy, to more than 1,000 written questions about E.P.A. policies and internal practices.
Since when have nominees been required to answer more than 1,000 written questions? Sounds like harassment to me.
Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who is chairman of the panel, said that Ms. McCarthy was one of the most qualified nominees ever named to lead the E.P.A. Ms. McCarthy currently heads the agencyâ€™s office of air and radiation, a post to which she won easy Senate confirmation in 2009. She previously served as a top environmental regulator in Connecticut and Massachusetts, working for Democratic and Republican governors.
â€œGina McCarthy deserves a vote,â€ said Ms. Boxer, visibly angry. â€œI have delayed a vote for three weeks. I was assured by Senator Vitter that once he received answers to 1,000 questions â€” a record-breaking number â€” they would allow us to move forward with the vote.â€
Ms. Boxer and other committee Democrats noted that Republican members had submitted 1,079 questions to Ms. McCarthy, compared with 157 for Mr. Obamaâ€™s first E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, and 305 for Michael O. Leavitt, who served in the post under President George W. Bush.