Senate Narrowly Passes Budget Proposal For Fiscal Year 2014

The next step will come when President Barack Obama releases his budget, although that is not likely to offer details about changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs that the president might be willing to support.

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Set To Alter Focus After Passing Two Budgets
After the Senate passed its budget this weekend, Congress is expected to pivot to issues such as immigration and guns before attempting a broader deal on taxes, spending and the national debt later this year. … Mr. Obama has indicated a willingness to support bigger changes in Medicare and other entitlement programs than the Democratic budget called for, but only as part of broader deficit-reduction deal with Republicans that includes tax increases. The president isn't likely to detail such entitlement cuts as part of his formal budget request (Hook, 3/24).

The Associated Press: Analysis: Balance Is In The Eye Of The Congressional Beholder When It Comes To Budgets
Well before then, on April 8 in fact, Obama will present a budget of his own. It is long overdue, to the disappointment of Republicans who had hoped to make it an object of ridicule in the just-completed budget debates in the House and Senate. It gives Obama the chance to align himself entirely with his Democratic allies, or possibly to edge away when it comes to government benefit programs that have largely escaped cuts in earlier compromises. Republicans will watch to see what steps, if any, the White House is willing to recommend to slow the growth of Medicare or perhaps Social Security. Given Obama's recent series of meetings with Republicans, some GOP lawmakers say privately it would be a positive sign for him to include a proposal curtailing the rise in cost of living increases in benefit programs (Espo, 3/25).

News outlets also reported on the scores of amendments the Senate considered as part of its budget debate, including those that sought to de-fund elements of the health law and repeal the medical device tax.

Los Angeles Times: Senate Narrowly Approves Democratic Budget
More than 600 amendments were filed on the bill, from the lofty to the parochial. They included proposals to de-fund new healthcare laws, to restrict potential surveillance by domestic drone aircraft, and to prevent a Western bird called the sage grouse from being listed as an endangered species. Like some members of the Senate, it is known for its strutting displays. … Senators dispatched with several key amendments. They tossed aside the House GOP budget drafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, which calls for deep cuts to the social safety net, including Medicare, and in an effort to achieve balance in 10 years. Five GOP senators defected on their party's defining document (Mascaro, 3/23).

Politico: An Obamacare Rerun: Senators Target Health Law In 'Vote-A-Rama'
Proving that the Obamacare wars are far from over, the health reform law was one of the favorite targets of amendments during Friday night's "vote-a-rama" on the Senate floor. Dozens of amendments were filed to the budget resolution picking apart various elements of health care policy: whether employers should provide contraceptives in their insurance policies, whether a tax should be imposed on medical device-makers, whether Medicare can adjust payments based on the state (Haberkorn, 3/23).

Politico: Democrats Join Push To Dump Obamacare Tax
Thirty-four Senate Democrats joined Republicans on Thursday night in a nonbinding but overwhelming vote to repeal a key tax in President Barack Obama's health reform law. The Senate voted 79-20 to get rid of the law's 2.3 percent sales tax on medical device-makers (Haberkorn, 3/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Medical-Device Tax Repeal Faces Uphill Climb In Senate
The push to repeal the 2010 federal health-care law's tax on medical devices got a boost in the Senate this week, but the search to replace the nearly $30 billion the levy provided to fund other parts of the law will impede efforts to unwind it. Intense lobbying from the medical-device industry helped nudge the Senate to vote 79-20 Thursday night to repeal the 2.3% tax on sales of pacemakers, surgical tools and a swath of other devices. Strikingly, 34 lawmakers who caucus with the Democrats signed onto the repeal, including many who created the tax by voting for the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Peterson and Weaver, 3/22).

The Hill: Senate Rejects Ban On Allowing Former Illegal Immigrants Healthcare Benefits
The Senate rejected an amendment to the budget that would have banned illegal immigrants from qualifying for "ObamaCare" and Medicaid during the period of legal status. Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Session (R-Ala.) introduced the amendment, which failed on a 43-56 vote. His amendment would have prohibited illegal immigrants, who later gain citizenship, from getting healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act or through Medicaid (Cox, 3/23).

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