GOP Senators Worry About Backlash From COBRA Extension Filibuster
Los Angeles Times' D.C. Now: "Sen. Jim Bunning, the Republican from Kentucky whom Democrats love to blame for preventing passage of an extension of unemployment benefits, again blocked the Senate from taking up the measure on Tuesday." He says he supports the legislation's goals but will oppose it "until it is fully funded without increasing the federal deficit. In a one-person filibuster [that started last Thursday], Bunning has blocked the bill that, in addition to extending benefits, would also ... prevent a big cut in Medicare payments to doctors" (Muskal, 3/2).
New York Times: "A law shielding doctors from a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees also lapsed, but the Obama administration took steps to shield doctors temporarily. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it would hold claims for services provided in the first 10 days of this month, so doctors would not see the cut in payments. In a notice to doctors, the Medicare agency said it was working with Congress to avoid disruption in the delivery of health care services and payment of claims. If Congress takes action by March 12, it said, the holding of claims 'should have a minimum impact on provider cash flow'" (Hulse, 3/2).
Politico: Bunning's actions have left "Republicans fearing the political backlash from the lapse of unemployment benefits, health care coverage, highway funding and Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors." Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was among lawmakers who took to the Senate floor Tuesday urging the retiring Kentucky Senator to "put aside his objection."
"In lieu of passing the extenders by unanimous consent, the Senate will vote on a bill introduced yesterday by Reid and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would retroactively grant benefits to those affected by the gap in coverage created by Bunning's objection" (Shiner and Raju, 3/2).
CNN: Meanwhile, Bunning said today "that he is involved in discussions to help end a stalemate over the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans." When asked if a "senators are close to finalizing a deal, Bunning said, 'We're trying.' Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also said top Democrats and Republicans were trying to find a resolution to the impasse" (Henry, Borger and Silverleib, 3/2).
Congress Daily: "Senate Democratic and GOP leaders were nearing a deal this afternoon to overcome objections from Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., to the $10 billion cost of moving one-month extensions of programs that expired at midnight Sunday. Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg said he thought an agreement would be reached to grant Bunning a vote on his proposal to pay for the measure. Leadership aides on both sides said the deal could be finalized after caucus lunches" (Cohn, Friedman and Condon, 3/2).