GOP Extenders Proposal Fails; Dems Still Seek To Lower Cost On Their Bill
Senate Republicans failed Thursday to replace a broad Democratic jobless benefits bill, which includes a provision to stop a pending 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. The Republican option failed in a 57-41 vote, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., joined 40 Republicans in supporting the bill, while all other voting Democrats opposed it. "Like the Democratic version of the bill, it would renew a popular series of tax cuts aimed at businesses and individuals, continue federal jobless benefits and avert pending reductions in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients." But, to keep its cost down, Republicans stripped $24 billion in aid to the states and added spending cuts for many federal agencies (Boles and Vaughan, 6/17).
The Republican proposal would have diverted remaining stimulus money as well as other spending to extend the unemployment benefits and would have made changes to the recently passed health care law, The Associated Press reports. Meanwhile, "Senate Democratic leaders are working to shore up support for their version of the bill, which would add $55 billion to the deficit over the next decade" (6/17).
Roll Call fills in the details on the Democrats' latest bill: "Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Wednesday evening released a new, smaller version of the extenders package - dropping the total cost from $140 billion to $118 billion and the overall deficit impact from $79 billion to $55 billion. While Baucus had hoped that proposal would win over deficit-minded moderates in both parties, Senators said they still were not on board." Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Maine Republicans whose votes Democrats seek, said the bill was not yet acceptable (Stanton, 6/17).
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, another moderate, said he may change his vote to support Baucus' latest proposal, but Nelson appears firmly in Collins' and Snowe's camp, CongressDaily reports. "Nelson's spokesman said he continues to believe the package must be entirely paid for, and Nelson was the lone Democrat to support the GOP alternative that would cut the deficit by $68 billion." Senate GOP aides suggested further reducing the $55 billion Baucus proposals' cost by stripping the $24 billion in state aid for Medicaid programs, but it was not clear whether that would lead any of the holdouts to change their votes (Cohn, 6/17).
Earlier coverage of the legislation can be found in the KHN Daily Report.