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Senate Medicare vote hints at ACA change resistance

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Democrats may have revealed some Republican resistance to aggressive health program legislation Tuesday, with a vote on a proposed amendment that could have shielded Medicare and Medicaid from the effort to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.

Related: Five Republican senators seek ACA action delay

The proposed amendment, Senate Amendment 20 to Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, could have blocked the congressional committees involved in ACA de-funding from using a budget resolution to privatize Medicare, increase the Medicare eligibility age, cut Medicaid funding, or put per-enrollee spending caps on Medicaid funding.

Republicans hold 52 seats in the Senate.

The proposed amendment needed a three-fifths majority to pass.

The measure failed by a vote of 49 to 47.

All Democrats and independents who voted favored the amendment.

Two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada — voted with the Democrats.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and three Republicans — Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina — missed the vote.

Senate Budget Resolution 3, the underlying measure being debated, could create a framework that congressional committees could use to attack the Affordable Care Act.

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Backers of ordinary Senate bills, such as a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act, need 60 votes in the Senate to pass.

Budget measures need just 51 votes to pass, but complicated rules govern what backers can put in a budget measure. Some Republicans are hoping they can get full ACA repeal into the budget reconciliation resolution that would be created by the Senate Budget Resolution 3 process. Others think they could only de-fund major ACA programs, such as the ACA premium tax credit program.

If ACA critics lost the support of more than two Republicans on the final budget reconciliation vote, those critics would have to win over at least one Democratic senator to replace each Republican senator who declined to vote to get the resolution through the Senate.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., called the amendment “corrosive.” “A vote in favor of this amendment is a vote against repealing Obamacare,” Enzi said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who proposed the amendment together with Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said the proposed amendment comports with President-elect Trump’s promise to protect people who depend on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.


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