Democrats Block GOP Health Care MailingJuly 23, 2009
By Jackie Kucinich
Roll Call Staff
Democrats are preventing Republican House Members from sending their constituents a mailing that is critical of the majority’s health care reform plan, blocking the mailing by alleging that it is inaccurate.
House Republicans are crying foul and claiming that the Democrats are using their majority to prevent GOP Members from communicating with their constituents.
The dispute centers on a chart (view PDF) created by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee to illustrate the organization of the Democratic health care plan.
At first glance, Brady’s chart resembles a board game: a colorful collection of shapes and images with a web of lines connecting them.
But a closer look at the image reveals a complicated menagerie of government offices and programs that Republicans say will be created if the leading Democratic health care plan becomes law.
In a memo sent Monday to Republicans on the House franking commission, Democrats argue that sending the chart to constituents as official mail would violate House rules because the information is misleading.
In their eight-point memo, which was obtained by Roll Call, Democrats identify a litany of areas where they believe the chart is incorrect.
For example, Democrats argue that the chart depicts a “Health Insurance Exchange Trust Fund” that is “simply a recipient of IRS funds, with no outflow. ... This is false.”
The chart’s illustration of low-income subsidies is also “misleading and false,” Democrats argue.
Congressional rules for franked mail bar Members from using taxpayer-funded mail for newsletters that use “partisan, politicized or personalized” comments to criticize legislation or policy.
The dispute over Brady’s chart is being reviewed by the franking commission, which must approve any mail before it can be sent. No decision had been made on the matter by press time.
Brady adamantly denied that the chart was misleading and said Democrats are simply threatened by the content of the graphic.
“I think their review was laughable,” Brady said. “It’s ... downright false in most of the cases. The chart depicts their health care plan as their committees developed it.”
“The chart reveals how their health care bureaucracy works, and people are frightened by it,” he added. “So this is their effort to try and discredit” the chart.
Republican Members have made 20 requests to mail a version of the chart to their constituents and have been told that the requests are being delayed while the commission reviews allegations that the chart is misleading.
“Hiding the truth about wildly unpopular policies is a Democrat specialty,” said one GOP aide. “I’d like to see the flow chart on how Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi plans on implementing the open and transparent government she keeps promising everyone.”
“We have initiated discussions with the minority to try and resolve current differences and are operating in good faith to achieve that goal,” said Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.). The committee has oversight of the commission.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), ranking member of the committee and a member of the franking commission, said through a spokeswoman that he is also aware of the situation and is working with the members of the franking commission to resolve the differences, but he added that he believed Democrats on the commission were overreaching.
“He strongly believes that the franking commission does not have the authority to deny Member communications based on partisan differences of pending legislation,” said Salley Collins, a spokeswoman for Lungren.
The franking commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.
Republicans quickly embraced Brady’s chart, and over the past week about 50 Members have posted it on their Congressional Web sites or used it in a floor speech. It has also been posted on the home page of the Republican National Committee.