Republicans in the Senate today blocked action on a bill that would cut spending on Medicare Advantage by $13 billion over 5 years.

Members of Congress are scrambling to pass an alternative Medicare Advantage bill, to avert an 11% cut in Medicare physician fees that is scheduled to take effect July 1.

The bill that stalled is S. 3101, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act.

The sponsor of S. 3101, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, needed 60 votes to overcome procedural obstacles to getting the bill to the floor but could muster only 54 votes.

The White House today threatened to veto S. 3101, contending that it would expand the Medicare program unnecessarily and jeopardize the program’s fiscal soundness.

Baucus criticized fellow lawmakers for not letting S. 3101 reach the Senate floor.

“We all know what this vote was about, and it wasn’t about what’s best for American seniors,” Baucus said. “The White House doesn’t want overpaid private plans in Medicare to lose a single dime.”

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the highest ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced a second bill that would impose a smaller cut on the Medicare Advantage program. Grassley says the White House will not veto that bill.