GOP panel delays tort reform bill after conservative backlash

The Hill
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday abruptly postponed a markup on a medical tort reform bill after outbursts of criticism from several of the panel's conservatives.

In a rare display of discord on a GOP-led medical malpractice bill, Texas GOP Reps. Ted Poe and Louie Gohmert opposed a bill from fellow Republicans because they said it would violate states' rights.

“I believe this issue should be left up entirely in the state courts, in the states,” Poe said of the medical malpractice bill, which sets a $250,000 cap on compensation for non-economic damages to a patient.

“This committee should not, in my opinion, pass legislation that harms state courts and decisions made in state courts because the people in those states don’t want limits on liability,” Poe said. His position was then echoed by Gohmert, who also argued against federal tort reform.

In another surprise, Democrats on the committee, Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Wis.) and Jarred Nadler (D-.N.Y.), then praised the positions of the two Texas Republicans.

The committee has yet to reschedule the markup. A spokesperson declined to comment on whether Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte had been aware of conservative opposition to the bill before holding the markup.

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. John Conyers (D-N.Y.), called it a “strong disrespect of federalism.” And just before the markup, the committee received a letter protesting the bill from 29 groups, including the Center for Justice & Democracy and Consumer Watchdog.

The bill cuts spending by about $40 billion over 10 years. It was drafted as the committee’s response to Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) call to each committee to identify spending cut during this year’s budget process.


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