Senate Rejects Ryan’s House-Approved FY 2014 Budget Proposal
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted 40-59 to reject House Budget Committee ChairÂ Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.)Â House-approved fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports (Cox, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/21). Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) forced the vote on Ryan's budget after Republicans failed to introduce a version of itÂ as an amendment to Murray's FY 2014 budget proposal (Gibson, Politico, 3/21).
Ryan's budget proposal would balance the federal budget over the next decade by repealing the Affordable Care Act, transitioning Medicare to a premium-support program and turning Medicaid into a block-grant system. The budget proposal calls for $4.6 trillion in savings, with about $2.7 trillion coming from federal health care programs.
Five GOP senators -- Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Ted Cruz (Texas), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) -- voted with Democrats against the budget proposal (Cox, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/21).
Senate Nears Final Vote on FY 2014 Budget
Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday appeared on track to pass its first budget resolution in four years, the AP/U-T San Diego reports (Taylor, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/22).
The Senate Democratic proposal (S. CON. RES. 8) -- written by Murray -- would reduce the federal deficit by $1.85 trillion, including $275 billion in health care savings. Murray's proposal would lower the federal budget deficit to an amount equal to 2.2% of gross domestic product by 2023 through an equal mix of new tax revenues and spending cuts, including a $265 billion reduction to Medicare and a $10 billion cut to Medicaid. In addition, Murray's budget proposal would replace the $1.2 trillion mandated cuts under sequestration, including a 2% cut to Medicare reimbursement rates, with a mix of targeted spending cuts and new tax revenue.
According to The Hill, Democrats can only afford to lose five votes on their budget in order for it to pass. Several Democrats -- including six who face re-election in 2014 in Republican states -- are undecided. Those vulnerable Democrats were seen going in and out of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) office in a last-minute effort to guarantee Democrats have enough votes to pass the budget proposal.
The Senate is expected to vote on Murray's budget proposal late Friday or early Saturday (Wasson, The Hill, 3/22).
Senate Considers Amendments to Budget Proposal
In preparation for a weekend vote on the Senate budget proposal, senators on Thursday began considering amendments to Murray's proposal, Reuters reports.
The chamber voted 79-20 to approve a symbolic amendment that would repeal the ACA's medical device tax (Dixon, Reuters, 3/21). Senators also voted 96-3 on an amendment that would prevent Medicare from becoming a premium-support program, as was proposed in Ryan's budget proposal ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/21).
The votes to amend the budget resolution are not binding and will not change the law. However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the vote to repeal the medical device tax "an important step in the right direction" (Wasson, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/21).
GOP Senators Offer Amendments Targeting ACA
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans introduced several amendments targeting the ACA, including one that would require President Obama and Vice President Biden to get their medical coverage through the law's health insurance exchanges, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Under the ACA, White House staffers are excluded from a provision requiring lawmakers and most of their staff members to purchase coverage through an exchange. However, amendments offered by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Collins would require the president and vice president to obtain coverage through an exchange.Other ACA-related, GOP-proffered amendments would prohibit the use of federal money to advertise the law's new benefits, delay implementation of the law and alter its definition of a part-time employee (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/21). 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.