Senate Democrats beat back GOP alterations to healthcare 'fixes'
Senate Democrats prevail, so far, in keeping the package of healthcare 'fixes' intact. But the House will need to vote on it again to address small adjustments in the part dealing with student loans.
After nearly 9-1/2 hours of back-to-back votes that went until nearly 3 a.m., the Senate reconvenes Thursday morning to complete work on a House package of “fixes” to the sweeping healthcare reforms signed into law on Tuesday.Skip to next paragraph
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But anyone sleeping through the late-night action need not worry about missing something big. Some of the particularly tough votes are likely to be repackaged as campaign ads for fall midterm elections.
In a process dubbed vote-a-rama, the Senate voted down 29 Republican amendments to healthcare reform, on near-party-line votes. The votes, however, did put senators on record on issues ranging from tax hikes and back-room deals for certain states to gay marriage in the District of Columbia and whether to ban Medicare payments to cover Viagra for sex offenders.
Healthcare 101: What the bill means to you
Senate leaders had hoped to pass the package of House fixes without amendment, thus sending this carry-on bill straight to the Oval Office for the president’s signature. That meant beating back all GOP amendments, including many that are popular with the public.
'Fixes' package back to the House
With the occasional exception, Democrats did in fact hold together through 29 tough votes, defeating every one. But Republicans found two minor procedural points, expected to be raised on the floor Thursday, that will require adjustments in a student loan measure included in the healthcare fixes. That means a revised fixes package will need to go back to the House for a re-vote. Anticipating this possibility, House leaders are holding the House in session through the weekend before a two-week break, if necessary.
The essential point, Senate Democratic leaders say, is that the Senate is on track pass the House fixes without any substantive changes. Many amendments proposed by Republicans would have significantly reworked the new law.
Amendments Republicans offered
Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire opened the sequence of votes with an amendment to block the use of some $500 billion in Medicare funding for a new entitlement – an amendment that would have gutted financing for the healthcare bill. He proposed, instead, that any savings in Medicare to be used to boost Medicare solvency. Two Democrats, Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jim Webb of Virginia, joined all Republican senators in voting for this amendment, which was tabled (derailed) by a vote of 56 to 42.