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Hoyer hijacks telehealth bill to give advantage to Cheney, Republicans claim

FIRST ON FOX: A bipartisan telehealth bill in the House was hijacked by the lower chamber’s Democratic leadership and teed up for Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo, to claim a victory, Republicans contend.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced in an email to congressional offices that he would bring the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act to the floor next week.

The bill’s primary co-sponsor is Cheney, who represents the rural state of Wyoming that would benefit greatly from expanded telehealth access. The bill’s passage would be a significant boon as she stares down a tough primary election.

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Cheney’s bill, however, may not look the same when it hits the floor next week. A senior House GOP aide told Fox News Digital that the bill will likely be modified to include most of the provisions from a similar, bipartisan bill introduced by Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and David Schweikert, R-Ariz.

The aide told Fox News Digital that it “seems Democrat leadership’s goal with this legislation is to give Rep. Cheney an edge in her primary.”

“That’s a shame because Republicans have been working across the aisle to improve access to telehealth for over a year,” the aide said.

Another House legislative aide told Fox News Digital there is “already a bill with broad bipartisan support that would accomplish our goal of improving access to telehealth” and that instead “of taking up that legislation, Democrat leadership chose politics over a bipartisan policy solution.”

Republican Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona and Democrat Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas led a bipartisan bill to expand telehealth. 

The move to tee up the bill for Cheney — a former member of Republican leadership — is an odd one for House Democratic leaders, especially considering the bipartisan support behind the bill being rolled into Cheney’s, those Republicans say. 

The bipartisan bill, the Telehealth Extension Act of 2021, had robust bipartisan support with nearly 80 co-sponsors.

Hoyer’s decision to bring the bill up for a vote underscores the House Democrats’ need for Cheney in the chamber. The congresswoman trails behind her primary opponent by 20 points.

Additionally, Hoyer teeing up the vote puts Cheney between a political rock and hard place. By taking the win, down the line, Democrats will come knocking for a favor, and she’ll be in a tough position to decline.

Doggett's and Schweikert's bill is being rolled into Cheney's telehealth bill.

“Rep. Cheney is proud to be sponsoring this bipartisan legislation that will cut burdensome red tape while allowing Medicare to adapt to the ever-changing innovation in medical technology,” Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler told Fox News Digital. 

“The federally qualified health centers in Wyoming are located in some of the most rural areas of our country, and their ability to provide telehealth services during the pandemic ensured our seniors were able to receive the best care possible. This legislation will protect that access for millions of Americans through 2024, ensuring they are not left without options once the public health emergency has ended.”

Hoyer’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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