Bush Calls on Congress To Approve Medicare, Medicaid Cuts in Federal Budget
President Bush on Saturday in his weekly radio address said Congress should "finish its work" on the fiscal year 2006 spending cut package (S 1932) that includes the first cuts since 1997 to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the AP/USA Today reports (AP/USA Today, 1/9).
The Senate voted 51-50 on Dec. 21, 2005, to approve $39.7 billion in spending cuts -- including $6.4 billion in net savings from Medicare and about $4.8 billion in net savings from Medicaid over five years. The House on Dec. 19, 2005, voted 212-206 to approve the bill, but procedural maneuvers in the Senate will require the House to vote on the bill again before it can be sent to Bush (California Healthline, 12/21/05).
Bush said spending on mandatory programs such as Medicare and Medicaid is worsening future deficits. "We do not need to cut entitlements, but we do need to slow their growth," Bush said. He added, "By passing the first reduction in the growth of entitlement spending in nearly a decade, Congress will send a clear signal that the people's representatives can be good stewards of the people's money."
Bush also urged Congress to make all tax cuts passed during his administration permanent (AP/USA Today, 1/9).
House Republicans have "express[ed] confidence" that the spending cuts package will be approved when the House reconvenes on Jan. 31, but some "Democrats and allied interest groups will try to use the vote as an opportunity to score political points early in an election year," CQ Today reports. Defeat of the bill is "unlikely, given that some moderate Republicans voted for the conference report earlier," CQ Today reports.
Brian Riedl, a budget analyst for the Heritage Foundation, said, "[N]othing is guaranteed over a six-week break."
Brad Woodhouse -- a spokesperson for the union-funded Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities, which has campaigned against the cuts -- said, "If they win, and we're not convinced they will, we want to spill blood in the process so that they are gun-shy about turning around and doing this again in the next budget."
ECAP has targeted some moderate Republicans at local vigils and has organized "phone call blitzes in advance of the vote," according to CQ Today.
AARP also strongly opposes the bill, according to CQ Today (Dennis, CQ Today, 1/6).
The spending cut package "hurts the sick and the elderly with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that will increase health care costs for millions of Americans and restrict access to affordable prescription drugs," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) writes in a San Jose Mercury News opinion piece. However, "thanks to Senate Democrats' strict enforcement of Senate rules, and thanks to [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) insistence on another recorded vote, the House has a second chance to vote on this budget," Boxer writes.
Boxer adds that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Republicans should "scrap this poor excuse for a budget" and "instead cancel some of the tax cuts for millionaires," which "would accomplish the same thing -- deficit reduction -- but without harming our kids, our elderly and the middle class" (Boxer, San Jose Mercury News, 1/8).