Senate Leaders Say Health Bill Amendment Votes To Start Today

The Wall Street Journal reports that "after three days of debates without a vote on a single amendment ... Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, (D., Ill.) announced Wednesday evening that" Republicans and Democrats had "come to agreement" on how to proceed. The first two votes will occur today "on amendments aimed at requiring health plans to cover preventive services for women's health. The first, offered by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), would give the Health and Human Services secretary authority to authorize the services, with the aim of ensuring that women over 40 receive mammograms and other treatments." The other, "a Republican alternative offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R., Alaska), would ensure that ... the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force could not rule out preventive treatments."  (Yoest, 12/2).

Bloomberg: Other amendments being advanced by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers include a proposed repeal of health insurers' antitrust exemption, and "an amendment that would use similar language as in the House to ensure that no federal funds are used to pay for abortions." Also, "a bipartisan group of nine senators led by North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe said yesterday they will push to let Americans buy medicines from countries such as Canada, over the objections of Eli Lilly & Co. and fellow drugmakers" (Jensen and Litvan, 12/3).

The New York Times: "Democrats accused Republicans of stalling debate and obstructing the legislation." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "in effect, prepared [Democrats] for trench warfare, saying the Democrats must stick together and should be ready to work weekends to finish the bill before Christmas." Republicans  maintain that it is "unrealistic to expect quick action on such a big bill" (Pear and Herszenhorn, 12/2).

CongressDaily: "'We're going to move the process, we're going to be here long days and we're going to be here on weekends and obviously, if we're not allowed to move, we're going to have to start tabling amendments,' said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin. 'There is a lot of talk about if we have to be here at Christmas, we'll have to be here at Christmas'" (Friedman and Edney, 12/2).

Roll Call: "Republicans vociferously denied Democratic charges that they were slow-walking the bill for political gain, saying they are simply trying to block a bad measure in the event that they cannot make substantive changes to it. In fact, Republicans issued counter-charges that Democrats are attempting to rush passage of their bill because they know it is unpopular with voters" (Drucker, 12/3).

The Hill: "Without an agreement from the minority, Democrats would either have to file cloture on each amendment, a process that takes days and requires 60 votes, or move to table the amendments, a procedural move that requires only 51 votes but that traditionally has been viewed by senators as harsh" (Young, 12/2). 

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