The Senate is poised to take its first votes to alter a broad health overhaul bill after Democrats and Republicans struck a deal to chip away at a legislative logjam.
Senate set to begin on health bill amendments
The Senate is expected to start a series of votes this afternoon on amendments offered by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Two of the amendments deal with waiving certain charges for women’s health, including some types of cancer screenings.
McCain’s amendment, if passed, would effectively gut the health reform package. The Arizona Republican said he wants to send the bill back several steps in order to reinstate the nearly $491 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts that would occur over the next 10 years.
Meantime, Bennet’s amendment seeks to protect seniors from any lost benefits that might occur because of the reduced spending on Medicare.
All amendments will need 60 votes to pass.
The votes are expected to come on what amounts to the fourth day of debate, with Democrats accusing Republicans of using the Senate’s own arcane rules to effectively block progress on the bill.
“We’re getting more and more serious every day,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said last night after emerging from a closed-door meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and a host of White House officials that included HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
About 40 amendments have been filed so far, though some are likely to fall out before coming to the floor.
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