The Senate health care debate enters its second week today, and Senators are now debating Judd Gregg’s amendment that would prevent Medicare cuts from being used to fund a new program, the latest in a series of GOP amendments aimed at protecting Medicare.
Later today, Sen. Ben Nelson is expected to offer an amendment with more restrictive abortion language, along the lines of the Stupak amendment that passed the House. It isn’t expected to pass, and Nelson has threatened to filibuster any bill that did not include such language.
Meanwhile, 10 liberal and moderate Democratic Senators are meeting behind closed doors to come up with some sort of compromise on the creation of a government plan, or so-called “public option.” The New York Times reports that the latest idea involved allowing the Office of Personnel Management, which handles plans for federal employees, to “negotiate with insurers to offer one or more national health plans to individuals, families and small businesses.” Yet in an interview over the weekend, Sen. Joe Lieberman remained adamant in his opposition to any form of a “public option,” and reiterated that he was prepared to support a GOP filibuster.
If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid loses Nelson and Lieberman, he’ll have to win over the support of Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu, and then pick up Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
But then the big question is whether a bill that passes the Senate with weaker abortion language and a watered down government plan could make it through the House once representatives of the two chambers meet to reconcile their bills.
Over the weekend, the Senate voted on four amendments, all of which needed 60 votes to be adopted. On Sunday, it rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Lincoln that would have capped the tax deductible status of insurance executive salaries at $400,000, and Sen. John Ensign’s measure to limit attorney’s fees in medical malpractice cases. On Saturday, it blocked Sen. Mike Johann’s amendment to prevent cuts to home care under Medicare, but adopted a home health benefits motion offered by Sen. John Kerry.
More votes are expected this afternoon. Reid announced this morning that the Senate wouldn’t be open late tonight because of an event at the White House, but it would be in session late for the rest of the week, and would remain in session again over the weekend.