Grassley Needs Two Votes for Budget Package Including Medicare and Medicaid Spending Reductions
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said he is two votes short of the majority needed for the committee to pass a fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation package that would cut $10 billion from Medicaid and Medicare, CongressDaily reports (Heil/Hagstrom, CongressDaily, 10/19). Earlier in the week, Grassley presented a package that would have cut the programs by $12 billion (Carey, CQ Today, 10/19).
Speaking to Iowa reporters on Thursday, Grassley said, "When we get those (unidentified) two nailed down - not with what they are requesting - I will have a reconciliation package that saves $10 billion. It will not be much beyond that." Grassley said the two Republican senators originally had objections that the package did not save enough money, but now they are holding out for additional funding for specific programs (CongressDaily, 10/19). The package includes a $1.8 billion Medicaid expansion for Hurricane Katrina survivors (Heil, CongressDaily, 10/20).
Grassley said he hopes to secure a majority before next Wednesday, when the Senate Budget Committee creates the final Senate reconciliation package. Grassley predicted that if the House approves cuts to mandatory spending programs beyond the $35 billion outlined for the reconciliation process, the Senate will be unable to approve the final Senate-House reconciliation bill (CongressDaily, 10/19).
The House Republicans' "post-Katrina budget plan would add to the deficit, not reduce it" because "the required spending cuts don't come close to paying for the at least $70 billion in new tax cuts provided for in the budget," a Washington Post editorial states.
"So a hurricane that exposed the disturbing problems of poverty in America could end up providing the justification to make even deeper cuts in the programs that provide an essential safety net for the poor," according to the editorial (Washington Post, 10/20).