Senate Rejects Two Medicare ‘Lockbox’ Amendments
The Senate yesterday rejected two separate measures -- one proposed by Democrats and one by Republicans -- to place the Medicare Hospitalization Insurance Trust Fund (Part A) in a "lockbox," leading Democrats to charge that Republicans are willing to "raid Medicare to pay for President Bush's budget," including his tax cut proposal, the New York Times reports (Stevenson, New York Times, 3/14). Both measures, offered as attachments to the bankruptcy reform bill currently being considered by the Senate, failed to garner the 60 votes needed for approval as an amendment (Caruso, CongressDaily/A.M., 3/14). The first amendment would have restricted Congress from using surplus Medicare funds "for any other purpose than reducing the national debt" (New York Times, 3/14). All 50 Senate Democrats were joined by GOP Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.), Peter Fitzgerald (Ill.) and Gordon Smith (Ore.) in voting for this amendment (CongressDaily, 3/14). Democrats said yesterday that the vote indicated that Republicans and President Bush intended to use the Medicare surplus -- estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $392 billion through 2011 and by the White House at $526 billion -- for other federal spending.
Republicans said that the Democratic amendment would have no "practical effect," because they expect their budget to "add up without using Medicare revenues for any purposes outside of Medicare," the Times reports. In the second vote yesterday, GOP senators offered their own lockbox amendment, which would allow the Medicare surplus to be used either for debt reduction or for Medicare "reform." Democrats blocked this amendment, saying it was "so vague that it would let Congress use the money for a wide variety of purposes" (New York Times, 3/14). All 50 Republicans were joined by Democratic Sens. Zell Miller (Ga.) and Timothy Johnson (S.D.) in supporting the amendment(CongressDaily/A.M., 3/14)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.