House Approves Rule To Delay Action on Bush Medicare Savings Plan
By a vote of 231-184 on Thursday, the House approved a rule (HRes 1368) that delays consideration of President Bush's Medicare "trigger" bill for the remainder of the 110th Congress, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. The resolution does not require Senate action (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 7/25).
A provision of the 2003 Medicare law requires the president to propose a savings measure if the Medicare trustees for two consecutive years project the program to pull more than 45% of its funding from general government revenue.
In April 2007, the trustees issued a second warning.
On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee approved the rule to circumvent another provision of the Medicare law that requires action to be taken on the president's savings measure by July 30 (American Health Line, 7/24).
Without the House rule, any representative could have forced debate and a floor vote on a bill (HR 5480) intended to reduce Medicare spending (Armstrong, CQ Today, 7/24).
According to the AP/Daily Star, Democrats said the rule change was necessary because the 45% threshold is arbitrary and would force reductions in Medicare spending or shift costs to beneficiaries (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 7/25).
In addition, Democrats said that the new Medicare law enacted last week brings spending below the threshold, according to a Congressional Budget Office scoring (CQ Today, 7/24).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that Medicare "was designed to be substantially financed by general revenues, not payroll taxes" and that the program being "financed by general revenues is not problematic" (Bendery, Roll Call, 7/24).
Democrats likely will try to eliminate the trigger provision next year, according CongressDaily (Edney, CongressDaily, 7/25).
Republicans said that Medicare spending is growing beyond solvency and that something should be done to control spending, according to the AP/Daily Star (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 7/25).
In a statement on Thursday, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said, "The Congressional Budget Office may have determined that budget gimmicks contained in Medicare legislation passed last week meet the technical requirements of the trigger law. But parliamentary sleight of hand will do nothing to resolve the enormous financial challenges presented by Medicare in the future" (CongressDaily, 7/25).