Republicans could turn the cooked-up controversy over end-of-life counseling into a “Death Panel” vote next year.
If they fully embrace their new strategy, outlined here, Republicans could cherry pick politically-charged executive branch regulations and put vulnerable Democrats, particularly in the Senate, in a bind: vote for regulations that are unpopular with their constituents; or rebuke President Obama as he attempts to govern from the White House.
One of those regulations — scheduled to take effect January 1 — would achieve the Obama administration’s goal of encouraging end-of-life planning. It works by paying Medicare doctors for counseling patients with terminal illness on their medical options — including advance directives compelling doctors and families to forgo certain medical interventions like feeding tubes, IV fluids or respirators. Obama and congressional Democrats tried to include these incentives in their health care law, but were forced to nix it after Sarah Palin and other Republicans started referring to the provisions as “death panels” that could “pull the plug on grandma.”
That regulation will be susceptible to GOP objections now, and according to one top GOP strategist, a challenge is under discussion.
If 30 Senate Republicans sign what’s known as a “discharge petition,” they’ll secure themselves a vote on a measure designed to repeal the policy. That measure, known as a “Resolution of Disapproval,” is immune from a filibuster and passes, after limited debate, with 51 votes.
If it passed both the House and Senate, it would head to Obama’s desk for signature or (more likely) veto.
The GOP attempted this once this past Congress on a different issue. Lead by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Republicans attempted to pass a Resolution of Disapproval to upend the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue climate change regulations.
They failed — the measure went down 47-53, with six Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with the Republicans to nix the executive branch’s power to write climate rules. But next year, the GOP will have a much easier time getting the needed 51 votes to pass any similar resolution, which would sail through the Republican-controlled House. And that would likewise force Obama to whip out his veto pen.
And, as you can see here, Republicans have already signaled their intent to force a similar vote on the FCC’s new net neutrality regulations.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.