Despite Cuts, GOP Continues Block Of Bill To Extend Medicaid Assistance, 'Fix' Medicare Payments

A Republican filibuster may kill a bill that would extend jobless benefits and extra Medicaid assistance to states while also leaving in limbo efforts to delay cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.

The Associated Press: "A senior Senate Democratic aide said Wednesday evening that several days' worth of negotiations with a handful of moderate Republicans had failed and that a vote later this week to break the filibuster was likely to fail as well. Democrats would then abandon the measure." Tied to the bill's progress are "many items popular with lawmakers in both parties, including several items considered as must-do, including the further extension of unemployment insurance for people who have been out of work for more than six months, reversing a 21 percent fee cut imposed last week on doctors particpating in Medicare and renewing dozens of tax cuts."

"A new version of the Senate measure began circulating Wednesday afternoon that pares back a $24 billion state [Medicaid] aid package down to $16 billion... The bill has bedeviled Democratic leaders for months. It's become more difficult to pass as concerns about the deficit have bled GOP support since a similar bill passed more than three months ago" (Taylor, 6/23).

The Washington Post: "Senate Democrats were ready to throw in the towel late Wednesday on a months-long effort to deliver fresh aid to states and extend benefits to unemployed workers, saying Republicans had rejected their latest offer to pare down the size and cost of the package" (Montgomery, 6/24).

Reuters: "States are pushing Congress to extend beyond the December expiration date the extra funds for the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor that were included in the stimulus plan passed last year. The program takes up an average 20 percent of state budgets. Time is running out for lawmakers. Most states begin their fiscal year next week, and many banked on an extension of the Medicaid boost when drafting their budgets." From stimulus funds last year, the matching rate was raised to states by 6.2 percent, with more money for states with "especially high unemployment" (Smith and Lambert, 6/23).

CongressDaily: "As it stood Wednesday night, only about $35.5 billion of the package would add to the deficit, corresponding to the cost of extending unemployment benefits through the end of November. That was not enough to satisfy Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who wants the entire package offset, and thus two Republican votes are needed. Much of the focus remains on Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, although Democrats apparently are talking to Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts as well. … Snowe also wants Democrats to remove a provision that only benefits California hospitals, worth $400 million. Thus far, Democrats have not obliged" (Cohn, 6/24).

Roll Call: Reid is eyeing a way to force Republicans to vote again on the measure. Reid "put into a motion Wednesday evening a series of procedural moves and votes designed to clear the decks of pending motions and amendments to his extenders bill." A vote could come Friday morning (Stanton, 6/23).

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