Republicans and Tort Reform
Following the last election the Republican Party took over the majority in the House of Representatives. As the majority party, they control the committees and the floor, which in turn determines what bills get a vote and the general agenda of the House.
One of the first bills introduced into the House this Congress was H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011.
It is a ‘tort reform’ bill that limits the amount of money that can be sued for in a medical malpractice lawsuit to $250,000.
Tort reform may seem as large of a part of the Republican Party as Abraham Lincoln and the elephant mascot, but it has not always been so.
Andrew Cochran, a political appointee in the Commerce Department during the Reagan Administration, recently published an article What Ronald Reagan REALLY Said About Tort Reform.
In his article, Cochran writes that he reviewed President Reagan's major speeches, from before the 1980 election to the end of his Presidency in 1989. He found the following:
• Ronald Reagan never proposed any tort reform measure during any of his eight State of the Union speeches, and never criticized trial lawyers in them either.
• Reagan didn't criticize trial lawyers or propose tort reform in his major address to Congress on April 28, 1981, in which he proposed his economic plan. This was his first speech since the assassination attempt on his life, and it set up the entire Reagan Revolution.
• Reagan didn't criticize trial lawyers or propose tort reform in either of his Inaugural Addresses in 1981 and 1985. Neither did he in either of his speeches accepting the Republican nomination for President in 1980 and 1984.
• Cochran could find no mention of this topic in any of his major speeches prior to his election: not in his famous "Time For Choosing" speech in 1964; not in his speech to the first CPAC conference in 1974; not in a speech at Hillsdale College in 1977 titled, "Whatever Happened to Free Enterprise" - none of them. It's obvious that Ronald Reagan wasn't interested in limiting civil suits.
The debate over tort reform and limiting damages will continue but Representative Gingrey, author of H.R. 5, should make it clear that it’s his personal quest (he was a medical doctor who was sued for malpractice) and not a Republican one.