Conservatives celebrating today’s defeat of Harry Reid’s push for a separate $247 billion health care bill should keep things in perspective.
While a cloture vote on proposed legislation that would have prevented scheduled cuts to Medicare doctors’ payments over the next 10 years failed badly — with 13 Democrats joining all 40 Republicans — ultimately, the money is likely to be spent down the road anyway.
Even before the vote, Reid indicated that Democrats would proceed with a provision already in the Senate Finance Committee bill that would prevent the scheduled cuts from happening for one more year, and then revisit a more permanent “doctor fix” next year, by which time they already expect to have passed the broader health care legislation.
And if he can’t get a permanent bill passed next year, then Congress will most likely continue to vote each year to avoid scheduled cuts, as they have done every year since 2003. Remember, even Republicans are for spending this money, but their only objection was about the need to find offsetting spending cuts.
The bottom line is that one way or another, these scheduled cuts are not going to happen, and hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent.
The way that this vote could end up affecting the overall health care debate is if it means that the AMA, which said it was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome, ultimately comes out against the final health care legislation, or if it’s predictive of Democrats’ lack of party unity on health care in general.