The House Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill that would eliminate an advisory board created by Obamacare that was at the center of rumors the healthcare law would create a death panel.
The committee voted 24-13 Wednesday to advance the bill after a testy hearing in which Democrats complained they had more pressing priorities to address.
The panel, called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, is made up of 15 experts who determine cuts to Medicare if spending on the entitlement program reaches a limit. The committee staff estimated that the advisory board wouldn't be triggered until 2022.
The bill had bipartisan co-sponsors, but Democrats were perturbed the committee wasn't working on other priorities.
"I am disappointed we are here today to mark up one of the least timely agenda items on our to-do list," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
Democrats listed other priorities such as helping with disaster relief for Puerto Rico and reauthorizing or extending several healthcare programs.
"Children's health expired," said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., referring to expiration of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired last weekend. "There is no fierce urgency of now in this Congress, and that is what frustrates this side of the aisle."
Republicans responded that the panel should be repealed because it takes away Congress' power to oversee Medicare. Democrats contended that Congress could overrule IPAB if it wants.
IPAB was at the center of Obamacare critics' unfounded attacks that the law would enable Washington bureaucrats to helm death panels that would determine if seniors or the disabled were worthy of medical care.
Republicans disagreed that the bill should be postponed.
"We hear every reason why today is not the right time," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. "There is always a good excuse to postpone bipartisanship and I just don't understand that."