GOP Filibuster Blocks ‘Extenders’ Bill From Moving to Final Vote
On Thursday, Senate Democrats failed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster in a procedural vote to end debate on the "extenders" bill (HR 4213), which would have averted for six months a scheduled 21% cut to physicians' Medicare reimbursements that takes effect on Friday, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The Senate voted 56-40 in a cloture vote on the bill, four votes short of the 60 necessary for the bill to move toward final passage (Ohlemacher, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/18).
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats unveiled a new substitute amendment to the extenders bill after a similar procedural vote also failed to end debate on the legislation. The revised amendment package proposed a six-month delay to the Medicare payment cut, down from a seven-month delay in an earlier version. The House-approved version of the extenders bill proposed a 19-month delay to the payment cuts (California Healthline, 6/17).
Senate Democratic leaders initially sought a 19-month delay but were forced to trim the bill significantly in recent days to address the concerns of some moderate senators over the bill's cost, projected effect on the federal deficit and lack of offsets.
On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of bill had been trimmed down to about $118 billion, from $140 billion, and that the legislation would add about $55 billion to the federal deficit.
According to the Washington Post, Senate Democrats believed that the lower cost and deficit projections would be enough to garner 60 votes and end debate on the bill.
However, moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who usually caucuses with Democrats, joined all Republicans to block the extenders bill from advancing to the floor (Montgomery/Dennis, Washington Post, 6/18).
Democrats Express Frustration, but Pledge To Move Forward
Although Senate Democrats expressed frustration with Republicans' efforts to delay progress on the bill, Senate Republicans and some moderate Democrats insisted that more can be done to lower the bill's cost, CQ Today reports.
Some lawmakers have suggested using excess funds from the 2009 federal economic stimulus package and scaling back a proposal to restore about $24 billion in additional federal Medicaid assistance to states through June 2011, which had initially been omitted from the House version, to lower the cost of the legislation (Rubin/Lesniewski, CQ Today, 6/17).
Stand-Alone 'Doc Fix,' Other Amendments Undecided
In the meantime, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders appeared to have reached a deal on a stand-alone, fully offset compromise to avert the Medicare payment cut for six months. The deal could be taken up as early as Friday (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/18).
According to Politico's "Pulse," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the proposal on Thursday because members did not have enough time to review it. However, leaders from both sides said they hoped to have it passed on Friday by unanimous consent (Kliff/Haberkorn, "Pulse," Politico, 6/18).
CQ Today also reports that if consideration on the broader extenders bill resumes next week, as is expected, several senators plan to introduce amendments. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) still is expected to make an attempt to restore an extension of COBRA subsidies for unemployed workers, which the House also omitted from the bill. However, Casey is expected to "make them less generous" and try to offset the cost, according to CQ Today.
GOP Extenders Alternative Amendment Voted Down
Also on Thursday, a GOP package of alternative amendments offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) failed to overcome a procedural vote under budget rules. The Senate voted 41-57 to reject a motion to waive a budgetary point of order against the amendments package. Sixty votes were required to waive the point of order (CQ Today, 6/17).
House Adjourns; Democrats Frustrated with Senate Delay
The delay in the Senate on the extenders bill has frustrated some House members, particularly Democrats, The Hill reports.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who has worked as a physician and psychiatrist, said that the main source of his frustration is with the Senate's decision to scale back the delay to the scheduled payment cuts from 19 months to six months (Heflin, The Hill, 6/17).
CongressDaily reports that the House adjourned for the week on Thursday, after acknowledging that the Senate would not return to the extenders bill before the end of the week. Any changes the Senate makes to the House-approved bill must be approved by the lower chamber (Cohn, CongressDaily, 6/18).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.