Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

By Gabrielle Healy March 16, 2017

Gutierrez says 'hundreds of Republican amendments' were a part of Obamacare

Republicans continue to sell their health care plan in an effort to deliver on a party-wide campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Yet during a roundtable discussion on State of the Union, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., pushed back on charges of Democratic obstructionism regarding health care legislation.

Anchor Jake Tapper asked if Gutierrez was involved, or if Democrats were "just sitting by the sidelines opposing everything."

"Very different process," Gutierrez replied. "2009-2010, let's remember, hundreds of Republican amendments were adopted in the ACA."

We decided to look into Gutierrez’s claim that the final version of the Affordable Care Act incorporated hundreds of Republican amendments.

When the ACA was making its way through Congress, former President Barack Obama made a similar statement in September 2009. During a joint address to Congress, he said that his plan incorporated the ideas of both Republicans and Democrats. We rated that claim Mostly False, because many of the amendments Republicans introduced were technical in nature.

Republicans had several opportunities to introduce amendments to the Affordable Care Act, in both the Senate and House bills. Ultimately, for procedural reasons tied to the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the Senate version was the only one that moved forward. But Republicans offered changes in the committees that considered the bills before the whole chambers voted on them.

For example, 788 amendments were submitted during the ACA’s markup in the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee (HELP). Three quarters of them were filed by the committee’s Republican members, according to John McDonough in his book Inside National Health Reform. Of those, 161 were adopted in whole or revised form.

Yet as we reported at the time, those amendments were mostly technical. Only two of those Republican amendments were passed via roll-call vote. One of these amendments required members of Congress and congressional staff to enroll in the government-run option and the other involved biologics medication.

The Senate Finance Committee took up another version of the bill. Senators initially offered 564 amendments. During that markup, about six Republican amendments were adopted via roll call vote, and others were adopted by unanimous consent, without objection, and via voice vote, according to coverage by Congressional Quarterly. Parts of this bill merged with the bill the HELP committee marked up to become the final law.

Featured Fact-check

Gutierrez’s office pointed us toward a fact sheet from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s, D-Calif., office that said 147 Republican amendments were incorporated in the final Senate bill, though the sheet did not expand on the nature of those amendments.

On the House side, some Republican amendments to the Affordable Care Act were accepted in committee; 24 Republican amendments were incorporated in the Energy and Commerce Committee, and six were incorporated in the Education and Workforce committee. Republicans sponsored 38 amendments in the Ways and Means committee, and each one was rejected.  

Timothy Jost, emeritus professor of law at Washington and Lee University School of Law, told us that "the basic statement that hundreds were adopted is wrong."

But Jost added that "there was very significant Republican participation early on on the Senate side. There were dozens of hours of debate, and Republicans like Sen. Chuck Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee were very engaged."

Jost said by September 2009 that period was over and from then on, the bill was strictly a Democratic piece of legislation.

It’s worth noting that many facets of the Republican’s health care agenda at the time made it into the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act was a private market plan, and it dropped a long-held Democratic priority to include a public option.

In the end, no Senate or House Republicans voted for the Affordable Care Act in its final version.

Our ruling

Gutierrez said that "hundreds of Republican amendments were adopted" during the drafting of the 2010 health care law. His statement has some basis, because Republican amendments were adopted in both the House and the Senate during the legislative process. Most of these amendments were not particularly meaningful, though, so calling it a bipartisan enactment effort remains a stretch.

We rate this claim Half True.

Share the Facts
Politifact rating logo Politifact Rating:
Half True
"2009-2010, let's remember, hundreds of Republican amendments were adopted in the ACA."
CNN's 'State of the Union'
Sunday, March 12, 2017

Our Sources

Washington Post, The six Republican ideas already in the health-care reform bill, March 12, 2017

Slate, This Is What "Bipartisanship" Looks Like, March 12, 2017

PolitiFact, Obama says health plan incorporates the ideas of Democrats and Republicans, March 13, 2017

Salon, Fact-checking the GOP on healthcare reform, March 12, 2017

U.S Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, In Historic Vote, HELP Committee Approves the Affordable Health Choices Act, March 12, 2017, H.R. 3590, March 13, 2017

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader, GOP Rushes ACA Repeal Bill Without Hearings and Open Debate; By Contrast, ACA Was Enacted After An Open, Transparent Process, March 13 2017

Washington Post, House passes health-care reform bill without Republican votes, March 12, 2017

John Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, March 13, 2017

John McDonough, Inside National Health Reform, March 15, 2017

Congressional Quarterly, Health Overhaul Bill Emerges from Senate Committee, March 15, 2017

Congressional Quarterly, Health Care Overhaul Gets Panel’s Approval, March 15, 2017

Phone interview, Timothy Jost, emeritus professor of law Washington and Lee University, March 13, 2017

Email interview, John Cannan, research and instructional services librarian at Drexel University, March 13, 2017

Email interview, Elizabeth Rigby, associate professor of public policy and administration at George Washington University, March 13, 2017

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Gabrielle Healy

Gutierrez says 'hundreds of Republican amendments' were a part of Obamacare

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up