Senate Votes To Reject Medicare Cuts; Reid Discusses Next Anticipated Amendments
The Associated Press reported: "Senators voted 58-42 to reject an amendment by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona that would have stripped more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts from the health care bill. The measure would have sent the bill back to the Senate Finance Committee for a redo" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/3).
Meanwhile, MarketWatch reported that a "Democratic amendment to the Senate health-care bill that seeks to protect Medicare benefits passed on a unanimous vote on Thursday. The amendment by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., states that the overhaul bill before the Senate won't reduce guaranteed Medicare benefits. Republicans have decried the bill's $400 billion in cuts to the huge Medicare program but Democrats insist basic benefits will remain intact" (Schroeder, 12/3).
Also today, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said "the Senate will come to session at noon on Sunday to keep working on healthcare reform," according to the Hill's Blog Briefing Room. Reid said, "I think it's very likely that we wouldn't come in until noon or somewhere around noon on Sunday" (Zimmermann, 12/3).
Roll Call reported: "Speaking to reporters, Reid said Democrats would 'do our very utmost to finish health care before the end of the year,' but he acknowledged that result depends on finding agreements among Democrats on a number of different issues. ... Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the top two remaining issues to be resolved are how to structure a public insurance option and how strictly to restrict federal funding of abortion." Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) "proposal to further restrict federal funds from being used to pay for abortions" and an amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) "to allow lower-cost prescription drugs to be imported from other countries," are the next Democratic amendments Reid said would be on the floor (Pierce, 12/3).
Politico's Live Pulse reported: Nelson "said Thursday that the need for stronger anti-abortion language in the Senate health care bill is 'non-negotiable,' and he would filibuster the legislation without it. ... Nelson said he is circulating an amendment that closely mirrors one approved in the House and drafted by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.)." His insistence on the language "creates another significant problem for [Reid] who cannot lose a single vote from his Democratic caucus and still pass the bill without picking up Republican support. Reid has been in talks with the two Maine Republicans" (Budoff Brown, 12/3).
The Hill: "Dorgan's drug re-importation amendment is another significant hurdle. Allowing for the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and European countries is popular among many Democrats and Republicans, giving Dorgan's proposal a strong chance of passage. Opening the nation's borders to a flood of cheap drug imports, however, would wreck a deal Obama administration officials and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) hammered out with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). White House strategists have considered the political support of PhRMA essential to building enough political momentum for healthcare reform. If the industry pours its substantial resources into ads attacking healthcare reform legislation, it could sway wavering lawmakers.
"Reid said he would file cloture to move to a final vote 'when we work out all the problems we have on the legislation'" (Bolton, 12/3).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a "key liberal Democratic senator in the healthcare debate ... said he would be open to considering a proposed alternative public option to be unveiled next week," The Hill's Blog Briefing Room reports. In an interview, Wyden "said that he would consider any plan that would increase choices in the health insurance market."
He said, "The bottom line is you need choices to hold insurance companies accountable," adding that the public option can't be a "'healthcare ghetto' that limits too strictly the amount of people who can gain access" (Fabian, 12/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.