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NJ Daily

Senate Gears Up For Battle On Medicaid

April 23, 2008

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said Tuesday that he expects the Senate to act quickly on a one-year moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations, but Senate Republicans appear to be gearing up for a fight.

“It’s got lots of momentum, and it makes good sense to take those provisions and get it passed separately here or add it onto perhaps the [Iraq] supplemental,” Baucus said.

The House was initially scheduled to take up the legislation Tuesday but rescheduled the vote on the bill today under suspension of House rules, which requires a two-thirds majority. Supporters expect the bill to pass easily, even under suspension, largely because House Republicans brokered a deal with Democratic co-sponsors to scale back an earlier version.

 

The administration is threatening to veto the measure, but House Republicans, including Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton, predict the bill will pass with a veto-proof margin.

Baucus predicted the Senate also would be able to override the president’s veto. “A lot of Republicans want those regulations repealed,” he said.

Senate Republicans do not plan to let the bill slide by without protest. Finance ranking member Charles Grassley several times that blocking the regulations is tantamount to walking away from the states’ misuse of Medicaid funds.

Grassley’s opposition has the backing of GOP leaders. “Sen. Grassley has outlined the right approach to fix these critical Medicaid regulations,” said Minority Leader McConnell. Minority Whip Kyl also opposes the bill.

The Club for Growth PAC is including the vote on its congressional scorecard for the year. In a “key vote” alert released Tuesday, Club for Growth said, “The bill would prevent the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from implementing rules that would cut down on fraud and abuse.”

The bill has the support of a host of health organizations, children’s and seniors’ groups, including the AARP, the March of Dimes, and American Association for Home Care.

AARP issued a thank-you statement to House leaders Tuesday for pushing the measure forward on an expedited schedule.

“We particularly thank the more than 200 co-sponsors and the 46 members of the Energy and Commerce Committee who put partisanship aside to do what is right for those relying on Medicaid,” said AARP Vice President Elaine Ryan.

Moderate Republicans such as Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine support the measure. Snowe said in a hearing last month that the regulations would cost states too much money in an economic downturn and cause some Medicaid recipients to fall through the cracks.

Last week, Barton said he agreed with the administration in principle, but he said too many House Republicans would be vulnerable in re-election campaigns if they vote against it.

This article appears in the April 26, 2008 edition of NJ Daily.

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