Senate Approves Budget Reconciliation Bill
The Senate on Thursday voted 52-47 to approve the fiscal year 2006 Senate budget reconciliation bill (S 1932) after senators "methodically disposed of" 22 proposed amendments in roll-call votes, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 11/4). The legislation, approved on Oct. 26 by the Senate Budget Committee, includes about $10 billion in spending reductions to Medicare and Medicaid first approved by the Senate Finance Committee (California Healthline, 11/3).
According to the New York Times, the bill, which would reduce overall federal spending by about $35 billion over five years, is "the most ambitious effort to curb federal spending in eight years" (New York Times, 11/4).
Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) were the only Democrats to vote in favor of the legislation (AP/St. Petersburg Times, 11/4). Five Republicans voted against the bill (Simon/Havemann, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
In a statement, President Bush said, "The Senate took an important step forward in cutting the deficit" (AP/St. Petersburg Times, 11/4).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said, "This shows we are serious about fiscal discipline" (Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
Democrats, however, said that savings from the bill "would disappear and the deficit would increase if Republicans carried out their plan" to reduce taxes by $70 billion later this year, the Times reports (New York Times, 11/4).
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also said the legislation is "not what it claims to be," adding, "Yes, it will cut spending by more than $30 billion, but in a few weeks these savings will be spent on tax breaks for the rich. ... This fiscal strategy edges us closer to fiscal insanity."
In response to the criticism, Senate Budget Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said Democrats misrepresented the bill. "This bill had no tax relief in it," Gregg said, adding, "This bill was a deficit-reduction bill" (Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
In related news, the House Budget Committee on Thursday voted 21-17 to approve the FY 2006 House budget reconciliation bill, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 11/3). The legislation, approved on Oct. 27 by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would reduce Medicaid spending by about $9.5 billion over five years (California Healthline, 10/28). The bill would reduce overall federal spending by $54 billion over five years (Los Angeles Times, 11/4).
The committee approved the legislation "largely along party lines," CQ HealthBeat reports. Under the rules of debate, committee members could not propose amendments.
House Budget Committee Chair Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) on Wednesday raised some concerns about whether the House would approve the legislation (CQ HealthBeat, 11/3). House leaders said that they hope to hold a floor vote on the bill next week (New York Times, 11/4).
The Senate on Thursday also voted 81-18 to approve the final FY 2006 Department of Agriculture appropriations bill, which funds FDA. The $101 billion bill, which moves to Bush for consideration, would "preserve a White House ban on prescription drug reimportation," CQ Today reports (Hunter, CQ Today, 11/3). The bill also would require that FDA "better disclose in advance any time it waives conflict-of-interest rules for people with ties to the drug industry to sit on advisory panels," the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 11/4).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday reported on Senate passage of the budget proposal. The segment includes comments from Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.) and Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), John Sununu (R-N.H.) and Gregg (Naylor, "Morning Edition," NPR, 11/4). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.