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Reconciliation Bill May Need Another House Vote

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, March 25, 2010

Marathon days are here again as the Senate met 17 hours—from mid-morning Wednesday to 2:30 a.m. Thursday—on its second day to review and vote on more amendments to the House healthcare reconciliation bill (HR 4872).

While no amendments were added to the bill on Wednesday, the reconciliation bill may still need to return to the House for another vote. Problems have risen in the bill over the formula for determining the maximum Pell grant award under an expanded program. The Senate parliamentarian is also investigating other issues with the bill. The Senate leadership hopes to complete the Senate's work by late today or Friday, at the earliest.

Until the close of business early Thursday morning, nearly two dozen amendments have been proposed by GOP senators since the Senate started meeting on the bill on Tuesday. All amendments have been defeated. The maximum discussion on a reconciliation bill is 20 hours; time is not counted when amendments are introduced.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced one of the more publicized amendments, which called the new healthcare reform law "the greatest assault on liberty" this country has ever seen. The proposal, he said, was to prevent convicted child molesters, rapists and other sex offenders from getting federal drug coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs. The amendment was defeated in a 57 42.

Sen. Max Baucus (D MT) took exception to the amendment, calling it "a crass political stunt aimed at making 30 second commercials." He added that the bill was trying to help seniors pay for drugs while making healthcare affordable for more people. "This is a serious bill," he said, adding that Coburn's amendment made a "mockery of the Senate and of healthcare.

Other amendments that emerged yesterday were:

  • A proposal by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) to exempt critical access hospitals in rural areas from cuts proposed by the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was created by the new healthcare reform bill.
  • A proposal by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to remove the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act from the healthcare reform legislation because "it overpromises and underdelivers."

The Senate resumes floor debate on the healthcare reconciliation bill at 9:45 a.m. today.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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