A key Senate Republican hinted at a protracted battle on Capitol Hill over Medicare and Medicaid provisions in the budget, warning against the use of a legislative maneuver that would make it easier for Democrats to pass a bill but which ultimately would lead to a presidential veto.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, charged Democrats with laying the groundwork for a reconciliation bill that would essentially allow legislation to be approved on a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than the usual 60-vote majority, which Democrats likely could not muster. Grassley said such a move would serve only to isolate Republicans and ensure a presidential veto by Bush. The bottom line is that reconciliation is a bad idea, Grassley said.
We have serious work to do before the end of June, and a sham political reconciliation exercise is not getting us any closer to getting it done, he said.
The Senate is also wrestling over a Medicare bill that would hold off a Medicare physician pay cut this year, and both houses of Congress are hammering out budgetary line items. Grassley said that the use of the reconciliation process would delay such legislation. An aide to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that the two senators have a long history of working together on legislation. That will continue in the coming weeks, even as options are considered for ensuring the passage of a responsible Medicare bill this year. -- by Matthew DoBias
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