Baucus’s Senate panel whacks away at healthcare amendments
Finance Committee cuts 61 amendments, leaving just 503 to go. Among the major issues remaining: a public option.
Senators plunged into a massive overhaul of the US healthcare system this week with a chairman’s draft proposal and 564 potential amendments. After a week of marathon sessions, the Senate Finance Committee whittled the pile down to a still-whopping 503.Skip to next paragraph
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At first glance, it’s a fiercely partisan process. With a 13 to 10 edge on the panel, Democrats are rolling over most Republican amendments.
Of the 61 amendments taken up this week, the panel accepted only four proposed by Republicans. Another 17 GOP amendments were defeated on near party-line votes, and 11 – including four signature GOP proposals to cap jury awards in medical malpractice cases – were dismissed on procedural grounds.
By contrast, Democrats have won 20 of their amendments and lost one, but that one loss was huge.
In a rare move, the chairman and two other Democrats sided with Republicans to defeat an amendment by Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida that would have required drug companies to provide rebates to seniors to close a controversial coverage gap in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug bill, dubbed the “donut hole.” Those rebates would save taxpayers $86 billion over 10 years, Nelson had said.
But the Nelson amendment would also have unraveled a deal between President Obama and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) that commits drug companies to $80 billion in cost cuts -- but no more. The amendment failed by a vote of 10-13 on Thursday, with Sens. Baucus, Thomas Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey breaking ranks to vote with Republicans.
Other tough votes are expected next week, including amendments by Sens. Charles Schumer (D) of New York and John Rockefeller (D) of West Virginia to offer a public alternative. Chairman Baucus says that a public option can never win the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.