CAPITOL HILL: Lott May Restrict Amendments to Pass Bills
With Congress nearing adjournment, Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) has crafted plans to pass key appropriations bills without "giving Democrats a chance to force votes on their favored campaign issues such as health care," the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. According to GOP leaders, Lott hopes to pass several bills, including "Medicare legislation," by "taking advantage" of parliamentary rules that prevent or restrict the addition of amendments. For example, Republicans will likely attach Medicare "giveback" legislation to an unrelated bill under rules that will "deny Democrats the ability to seek amendments" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/17). Congress is "rushing" to complete work on the bill -- which would provide $26 billion to $28 billion to restore cuts in Medicare payments to providers, nursing homes and HMOs and expand benefits to seniors -- although "lingering disputes" have delayed passage (Pianin, Washington Post, 10/17). Democrats, claiming that Republicans have "muzzled" them with their "tactics," criticized GOP leaders. "The controversy that we are facing is not about procedural niceties," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said, adding, "The right to debate and the right to amend are fundamental rights to every senator." Republicans say, however, that Democrats have already "forced votes" this year on a number of their "top concerns," including three on a Medicare prescription drug benefit and eight on a patients' bill of rights. "We have had votes on all their issues they say they care about. ... They complain loudly when we don't move their agenda. We (Republicans) have a different agenda," Lott said. Several Republicans said Lott hopes to "shield" GOP senators from "casting difficult votes," with several incumbents facing tough races this year (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/17). To date, Congress has passed only three of 13 annual appropriations bills, although both Republicans and Democrats agree that they have seven more "largely complete" (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.