WASHINGTON — Republicans got down to business Thursday applying their agenda and their power in the House of Representatives. Here are some highlights.
Health care repeal
House Speaker John Boehner brushed off a Congressional Budget Office analysis saying that repealing President Barack Obama's landmark health care overhaul would add billions to government red ink and leave millions without coverage.
Republicans issued their own report arguing that Obama's coverage expansion would cost jobs and increase budget deficits.
But Democrats seized on the CBO analysis, calling it a game changer in the battle for public opinion.
In a letter to Boehner, budget office director Douglas Elmendorf estimated repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion from 2012 to 2021, the 10-year estimating period for budget projections. Moreover, Elmendorf said about 32 million more people would be uninsured in 2019.
Boehner, R-Ohio, said the CBO analysts had to rely on information selectively supplied by Democrats who wrote the legislation. Democrats, in response, pointed out that adverse rulings by the budget office repeatedly forced them to go back and revise the bill as they were writing it.
Reading the Constitution
Republicans and Democrats took turns politely in a historic recitation of the Constitution from the House floor Thursday, but the decorum hardly meant they were in agreement.
GOP lawmakers took time to read the document upon which the government was founded. Democrats went along but pointedly questioned the Republicans' insistence on omitting sections that show how the Constitution has changed over time — such as one that classified a slave as three-fifths of a person.
This was the first time the Constitution had been read in its entirety on the House floor, a gesture to tea party activists, who contend it has been ignored as Washington has stretched the limits of federal power.
It took an hour and a half for 135 lawmakers to go through the text.
Dealing with debt ceiling
House Republicans bluntly told the White House on Thursday its request to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit will require federal spending cuts to win their approval, laying down an early marker in a new era of divided government.
Boehner made the challenge as the House voted 410-13 to cut funding for House members' own offices and committee operations by $35 million.
Still, the rank and file accounts they cut by 5 percent to produce $35 million in budget savings have gone up 14 percent since 2008. The budgets for congressional committees and leadership offices have increased by smaller amounts.