GOP-Sponsored Medicare Rx Drug Amendment Passes Narrowly
The Senate narrowly approved a GOP-sponsored amendment to President Bush's proposed budget package that would allow Congress to spend up to $300 billion over 10 years for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, but only as part of an "overhaul" of the program, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Vice President Richard Cheney broke a 50-50 tie to pass the amendment. Bush's $1.9 trillion FY 2002 budget plan proposes to cut taxes, limit spending and outline policy priorities over the next 10 years (Kuhnhenn/Koszczuk, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/4). The amendment, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), did not "spell out the details" for a drug benefit or "specify what would constitute" Medicare reform, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Grassley called the measure "the right approach because nobody's got a crystal ball to know exactly how much money legislation to reform Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit will cost" (Lipman,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/4). According to Grassley, part of the additional funding could come from the "projected" Medicare Part A surplus without "negatively affecting" the trust fund's solvency. He said that the Senate Finance Committee would propose Medicare reform legislation by "late July" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 4/3). The plan could almost double the $153 billion that Bush has proposed for Medicare reform, including a drug benefit (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/4). According to the Journal-Constitution, the vote "clearly showed that lawmakers agree" that Bush's prescription drug benefit proposal "does not go far enough" to help seniors with prescription costs (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/4). USA Today reports that the vote also put some Republicans, who campaigned last year for a drug benefit, "on the spot" (Welch, USA Today, 4/4).