PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Sen. Dems. Attach Measure to Farm Bill
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) yesterday withdrew the $60.7 billion agriculture appropriations bill after Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) offered Senate Democrats' "Patients' Bill of Rights" as an amendment to the measure (Grunwald/Painin, Washington Post, 6/22). The move signals the commencement of a strategy the minority threatened months ago: To attach the bill to every conceivable piece of legislation until Lott allows conventional floor action on the measure. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said, "He's going to be facing it on every bill that comes along. This legislation will come to the floor, and it'll come either in an orderly fashion or in a disorderly fashion" (Bruni, New York Times, 6/22). He added, "The time has come to debate these issues before the American people. The time has come for votes on these crucial issues. The time has come for the Senate to fulfill its duty to protect American families." Clearly "irked" by the move, Lott said, "I find that our Democratic colleagues have put the Senate in an unfortunate position by offering this bill at this time. The pending bill is a very important agricultural bill. ... For some reason, the Democrats have decided to ignore the needs of the American farmer and turn this into a health care reform bill" (Post, 6/22).
The Times reports that "Democrats are turning up the heat, eager to be seen as the principal champions of a popular issue as the 2000 elections draw ever nearer." Lott appears willing only to allow limited Democratic amendments to the Senate GOP managed care reform bill. "We're ready to go," he said, adding that "there must be some reasonable understanding, some reasonable agreement" on the number of amendments introduced. But Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said such limits "are inappropriate for legislation that would affect scores of millions of Americans" (6/22). Also, Democrats are expected to insist on a vote on their bill. A Kennedy spokesperson said, "This is an initial effort. It's only a start. At some point, Democrats will get a vote on our legislation."
House of Cards
House GOP aides said Monday the House Education and Workforce Committee will mark up its bill this week. But two Republicans on the panel, Reps. Charles Norwood (R-GA) and Marge Roukema (R- NJ), may vote against the measure, calling its fate into question. Meanwhile, House Democrats will "stage a mass signing of a discharge petition to bring [Democratic] HMO legislation to the floor" (Morrissey/Earle, CongressDaily/A.M., 6/22).