Senate Passes Health Reform Reconciliation Bill, Sends It Back To House
The Senate Thursday afternoon passed a health care reform reconciliation bill, 56-43, and it back to the House for final consideration.
Politico "Three moderate Democrats voted against the reconciliation bill Nebraska's Ben Nelson and the two senators from Arkansas, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln. Lincoln faces a tough re-election fight this fall. Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia is ill and wasn't in the chamber" (Budoff Brown and Frates, 3/25).
The Hill: "Lincoln and Nelson were late to give their backing to the Senate's bill that passed in December. Both senators said they oppose the student lending provisions that were included in the process because they were unrelated the healthcare law. Lincoln, who now faces a primary challenge, said that she opposed the use of the reconciliation process because it is not 'transparent'" (Fabian, 3/25).
The Washington Post reports that the legislation includes two changes, which were "minor violations of reconciliation rules that forced changes to a provision on student loans. ... Democratic leaders said the provisions that were struck - from the part of the bill dealing with Pell Grants for college students - do not significantly affect the student loan program or the overall health-care bill."
"Although much smaller than the bill Obama has signed, the measure would make major changes to that legislation to bring the final package in line with a compromise worked out between House and Senate leaders. Federal subsidies would be expanded slightly for people who need help buying insurance, and the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription drug program would be closed by 2020. Seniors who fall into the doughnut hole this year would be eligible for a $250 rebate." Starting in 2014, insurers couldn't deny people coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The CBO says the bill will cost $938 billion and reduce the deficit by $143 billion in the next decade (Montgomery and Murray, 3/25).
The New York Times reports that with "both sides girding for a last round of parliamentary challenges, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in the chamber to preside over the session in his role as president of the Senate. Mr. Biden served for 36 years as a senator from Delaware, making him intimately familiar with the chamber, its rules and precedents, and the main combatants on the floor. As Senator Judd Gregg formally made the procedural challenges, Mr. Biden twice replied, 'The point of order is sustained.' Then, he added, 'Both provisions are stricken.'" The struck provisions were in the student loan section of the bill.
"The vote came after Senate Democrats defeated more than 40 Republican amendments aimed at delaying or derailing the legislation, including proposals related to insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted sex offenders, the legality of gay marriage in the District of Columbia, and gun rights" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 3/25).
The Associated Press: "In a dramatic nod to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who had spent a career championing health care for all Americans, the Senate observed a moment of silence in his honor before voting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked senators to cast their votes from their desks, a seldom-used procedure the chamber employs only for the most significant measures. Democrats did so in a bow to the initiative's importance to their party, but some Republicans did not."
'This has been a legislative fight that will be in the record books,' Reid said before the final Senate vote" (Fram, 3/25).
The Wall Street Journal: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said she was confident the bill would be approved by House Democrats. 'Of all the things they could send back, this was probably the most benign,' Ms. Pelosi said. The provisions dropped from the bill totaled no more than 16 lines" (Hitt, 3/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.