Here is exhibit A of why we don’t trust current Senate leadership to do the right thing if they were to win back the majority; they refuse to block new spending when in the minority.
Last week, House leadership decided to pass the “doc fix” bill (H.R. 4302) by voice vote. This bill reimburses healthcare providers for the scheduled 24 percent cut in payments for services rendered to Medicare patients. The bill extends the payments through next March. It also continues some new programs created under Obamacare.
They used a hodgepodge of tenuous offsets spread out mainly over the next 5-10 years to compensate for an immediate expense that will undoubtedly reoccur every year under the 10-year budget frame. Hence, once again, Republicans have agreed to increase spending without any structural reforms or concessions from Democrats on other policies (the original House bill paid for the extension by repealing the individual mandate).
Yesterday, Senator Harry Reid brought the bill to the Senate floor, but Senator Jeff Sessions raised a budget point of order. As Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, Sessions has been a stalwart at challenging new spending bills for violating Senate PAYGO rules. This is one of the few tools at the disposal of the minority party used to block bad legislation since the majority party needs 60 votes to overrule the point of order.
In this case, the $15.8 billion cost would be incurred immediately and the offsets include some budget gimmicks to ensure that CBO would score it as deficit neutral by the year 2024. One would expect the party leadership to rally behind their point man on budget issues in order to stop the majority from increasing spending. Yet, Senators McConnell and Cornyn led 14 other Republicans in opposing Sessions, thereby giving Reid the 60 votes needed to send the bill to the President’s desk.
Senator Tom Coburn was right to call this a “cowardly” vote, suggesting that this is the reason he is leaving the Senate:
“If you vote for this bill that’s on the floor today, you’re part of the problem. You’re not part of the solution,” Coburn said. “It’s a sham, it’s a lie. The pay-fors aren’t true. It’s nothing but gimmicks. It’s corruptible. There’s no integrity in what we’re getting ready to vote on.”
Coburn said the “doc fix” is just the latest in a series of decisions Congress has made to avoid short-term pain. He and other fiscal conservatives railed against a fix this year to rising flood insurance rates — a law that’s celebrated by senators from coastal states.
“Just like we did on the flood insurance bill. It got a little hot in the kitchen, instead of actually cooking the omelet, we threw the eggs in the trash can and ran out of the room. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen here,” he said.
Once again, we must ask the salient question: will our predicament improve if we allow the same cowards to lead the GOP majority?
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