Rival Economic Stimulus Bills Die in Senate Procedural Votes
As expected, the Senate yesterday defeated rival economic stimulus bills -- which both included health provisions -- in two procedural votes that "virtually ensure" that Congress will not pass such legislation this year, the Washington Post reports (Dewar, Washington Post, 2/7). The Senate voted 56-39 for a cloture motion to end debate on a compromise bill introduced last month by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), four short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to end debate and bring the measure to a vote (Stevenson, New York Times, 2/7). The legislation, a "slimmed-down version" of an economic stimulus bill that Senate Democrats proposed last year, included funds to help states with rising Medicaid costs. It did not include a provision in the original bill to help unemployed workers purchase health insurance through COBRA. The bill also included a number of non-health-related tax provisions targeted at unemployed workers and businesses (California Healthline, 1/23). The Senate also voted 48-39 on a cloture motion to end debate on a GOP-sponsored stimulus bill that passed the House last year, 12 short of the 60 votes that proposal needed to be brought to a vote (New York Times, 2/7). That bill, which President Bush supported, would have provided individual tax credits to cover 60% of the cost of private health insurance for unemployed workers. It also included tax provisions targeted at businesses and individuals (California Healthline, 12/20/01). Although the cloture votes did not technically kill the bills, Daschle withdrew the bills from consideration in the Senate after they failed to receive the support needed to be brought to a vote (Washington Post, 2/7).
Republicans and Democrats yesterday blamed each other for the failure to pass an economic stimulus bill (Hosler, Baltimore Sun, 2/7). Bush criticized Daschle for his decision to withdraw the legislation from consideration and urged lawmakers to pass a bill this year (Murray, Wall Street Journal, 2/7). Daschle, however, said, "The Republicans killed the economic stimulus bill today, just as they attempted to kill it ... for the last three weeks" (Baltimore Sun, 2/7). The Senate yesterday did pass by voice vote legislation sponsored by Daschle to extend by 13 weeks benefits for unemployed workers who exhaust their 26 weeks of regular payments. Bush and House leaders have "indicated their support" for the bill (Moritsugu, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/7). House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said that although he supports the legislation, he "hoped the Senate could do more" and pass a health benefit for unemployed workers (Norton/Caruso, CongressDaily/AM, 2/7). Republicans and Democrats, however, "have been unable to agree on how to structure [such] health benefits" (Kirchhoff, Boston Globe, 2/7).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.