WASHINGTON (CNN) – In a marathon Senate session that lasted into the wee hours of Thursday, Republicans kept their vow to use every parliamentary tool available to undermine the recently enacted health care reform law. In the end, they found violations in two provisions, forcing the bill back to the House for another vote.
The GOP launched its attempt to amend or kill legislation expanding the new law in a Senate session that finally adjourned at 2:45 a.m. Thursday. The Senate plans to reconvene at 9:45 a.m. to consider other GOP amendments, which also are designed to force Democrats to cast unpopular votes in the runup to this November's midterm elections.
Senate Democrats easily defeated the first of 29 amendments introduced by Republicans, which challenged provisions in the bill such as those involving changes to Medicare funding. Also defeated were attempts to send the measure to committee for reconsideration - which would effectively kill it - and other amendments intended to strip provisions from the bill.
But after hours, the Republicans found two minor provisions related to higher education that violate Senate procedure. These provisions have to be removed from bill, and then it has to be voted on by the House again, said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"I'm confident that the House will be able to deal with this quickly," Manley said.
The Democrats' so-called "fixes" bill was necessary to get a reluctant House of Representatives to pass the Senate's health care reform measure Sunday night.
The House's narrow approval of the measure allowed President Barack Obama to sign it into law Tuesday - giving the president a victory on his signature domestic issue. But in return, House Democrats expected the Senate to sign off on the compromises included in the reconciliation bill.
The compromise package would add more than $60 billion to the overall plan's cost partly by expanding insurance subsidies for middle- and lower-income families. It would also expand Medicare's prescription drug benefit while scaling back the bill's taxes on expensive insurance plans.
While Obama is pushing to get the measure to his desk, Democrats have acknowledged they are concerned that the Republicans may succeed in changing the carefully balanced package.
Any changes would force the package back to the House for another vote.
Also Wednesday, Democratic senators complained that Republicans had shut down committee hearings for a second straight day as part of a strategy of obstruction in protest of the health care bill.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, told a news conference the GOP tactic was delaying work on vital issues.
"It's unconscionable," said Levin, who as chair of the Armed Services Committee was supposed to conduct a hearing with a top U.S. military commander in Korea who had flown in for the hearing. "Out national security cannot be held hostage to disagreements over a health care policy."
McCaskill had planned an oversight hearing on problems with contracts to train local police departments in Afghanistan. She said the Senate rule that allows the minority party to block committee action was "really dumb" and should be dropped.
"Disagree with us, debate us, vote no," she said. "But to use a rule to stop us from working–that dog just doesn't hunt from where I come from. That doesn't even makes sense. That's why people in American think we are clueless here."
Levin said he "pleaded" with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to prevent the blocking of a second day of hearings. A GOP objection on Tuesday also closed down committee work.
"It seems to me this is an example of how the obstructionism around here has gotten mindless," Levin said.
A GOP leadership aide would not directly respond to Levin's charge, but noted that Democrats canceled hearings Tuesday so that senators could attend the White House signing ceremony for the health care bill.
Among the amendments to the health care bill being proposed by Republicans is a provision to prevent the bill's planned Medicare cuts from being used to finance other programs. They also are proposing to eliminate new penalties being imposed on businesses whose workers use federally subsidized insurance.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, has proposed that drugs for erectile disfunction, such as Viagra and Cialis, be prohibited to sex offenders.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, is pushing to strike so-called "sweetheart deals" such as an extra $300 million in Medicaid funds for the state of Louisiana. Critics have labeled the deal the "Louisiana Purchase."
Democrats have dismissed the GOP proposals as little more than politically motivated obstructionism meant to derail the deal.
Republicans are "not serious about helping this bill," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Wednesday. They are concerned only with "throwing roadblocks in front of anything we do."
Reid said Senate Democrats "feel very comfortable and confident" that the package of changes as currently drafted will pass.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said Tuesday he didn't think the Senate would change the bill, but if it did, the House would be prepared to vote on the revised bill and send it to Obama.
After a White House meeting Monday night with Senate Democratic leaders and Obama, a senior Democratic source said they believe some portions of the fixes bill may be ruled out of order because they violate the complicated legislative rules governing the process. The source would not specify the potential problems identified at the meeting.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, said one or two potential problems were identified, but he said they were minor.
Once Republicans raise a point of order, it would be up to the Senate parliamentarian to rule on whether it is legitimate. Democrats would have difficulty defeating a point of order because that would require 60 votes. The Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the chamber when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts seat long held by Democrat Edward Kennedy, who died last year.
The loss of the 60-seat supermajority was what prompted the complicated two-bill strategy being used by the Democrats. If the House had made any changes to the Senate version of the bill, it would have had to go back to the Senate for another vote. There it would have stalled there because Republicans have enough seats to filibuster it.
Democrats therefore approve the Senate bill without changes and proposed the fixes bill, which they are trying pass in the Senate through reconciliation, which allows bills affecting the budget to pass by a simple majority of 51 votes.
The points of order that Republicans are expected to raise would deal with aspects of the legislation that they say violate the strict rules on the reconciliation process.
In an ironic twist, many of the provisions of the fixes bill that Republicans are trying to kill were backed by Republicans during debate on the Senate health care bill. For example, the fixes bill would eliminate a provision for the federal government to pay Medicaid cost increases for the state of Nebraska, a provision that was negotiated by Democratic Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson in exchange for his support.
Republicans cited the Nelson trade-off as an example of what they called unethical deal-making by Democrats to get the health care bill passed in December.
– CNN's Tom Cohen, Alan Silverleib Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report
what did they do find a period where a comma should have been? Too bad the Dems didn't do this when Bush passed his taxcut for the rich bill. What a waste of time from a bunch of sore losers. What they NEED to be doing is condemning these idiots they've gotten all riled up over false information.
Rip it up.
I wonder if they're slapping themselves on the back and patting each other on the shoulders, congratulating themselves that they're terrorist activities are working.
Where's Homeland Security? Why haven't these people been arrested?
It's nothing but blater at this point – the hcr bill is law. Why waste the time? Oh, that's right, it's the republicans, that's all they're capable of doing, wasting time.
What a record to run on – fighting AGAINST health care! Now that's the Christian thing to do. God should send a plague to every Republican and their families and wipe them out overnight. This is the beginning of the Civil War II. Arm the militias and shed Republican blood in the streets.
In Jesus name, AMEN
The current GOP are making me sick...get over yourselves...the bill past...move on and STOP trying to beat a dead horse...
START working together in Washington and try and get something accomplished without it taking 18 months (time & money) of childish behavior to do so...GROW UP..we are NOT paying you good salaries (and great benefits) to play childish theatrics...
There are to many issues out here that need to be fixed...STOP playing party politics or your party of NO will be the ones kicked out in November!!!
I, like alot of my peers (retired, between 55 and 65 dems & republicans) are getting to the point where all we see is obstructionism and delay tactics over EVERYTHING. WE are really getting a very sour taste over it.
I really like how you Media keep saying the Republicans are forcing the Senate to vote on unpopular votes.
Taking some of the Medicare Cuts out of the bill, that is not unpopular, it is going to hurt the Seniors beyond repair and should be done, but the Democrats wont take it out cause they dont care about seniors.
Also, the Amendment to Make it mandatory for All Government to take the Same insurance as they are passing on us...
That would be totally fair to the American People,
The Democrats voted that down too, Why???
We pay for their insurance we should say what they get, just like they are forcing us to take the bill they wrote.
While this bill has some good points, it has many more bad points that will cost the people dearly, hurt the Seniors, and create more job loss's, with their Tremendous Taxing.
So quit being so bias and one sided, tell it like it is.
Republicans continue to bring down democracy. To shut down senate committee meetings with generals in regard to Korea makes the republicans as bad as the Taliban.
It is all about politics. I suggest that the GOP offer any one of the following for the 2012 election:
Palin/Hitler 2012, Romney/Stalin 2012 or even Bachmann/Mussolini
Quoted from a CBS news article released this morning"
"A CBS News poll released Wednesday finds that nearly two in three Americans want Republicans in Congress to continue to challenge parts of the health care reform bill".
"The poll finds that 62 percent want Congressional Republicans to keep challenging the bill, while 33 percent say they should not do so. Nearly nine in ten Republicans and two in three independents want the GOP to keep challenging. Even 41 percent of Democrats support continued challenges. "
I read this as I read where two of the companies in my 401(k) are saying they are taking substantial hits this year thanks to the Obama Commucare bill. Of course this decreases the value of my retirement and then I see in the new bill where they are are going to place an additional tax on retirement savings to pay for the dope smokers bill, and then there was a report saying that for the first time Social Security will take in less than it pays out for the first time. For all of you non workers who don't understand why the working people of America are upset.
I still don't get why republicans are trying to stop this bill. It has so many things that they agree with. Why is it that Democrats are supposed to compormise but the republicans don't have to move an inch in the sake of compormise. They are on the wrong side of history again!
The Republican Caucas are sore losers, not unlike immature children that won't accept when it is time to move on to other important matters. They should keep in mind however, that if they were part of the solution by making serious ideas and concepts to the debate this defeat wouldn't be so hard, emotionally, on them. However whith the new healthcare in place, maybe the Republicans should seek Psychiatric services they all seem to need in order to grow up!!!
The GOP which has been know as the party of NO is really turning into something else. There is no doubt that they are the ones responsible for all of the acts of violence that are occuring toward members of the other party for voting for the health care bill. On top of that they hide behind the excuse "We condem the acts of violence". YEAH RIGHT. The party of NO, the party of FEAR, and now the party of HATE/VIOLENCE will never get my vote ever again. Don't even bother to think for one minute that the GOP is not lapping all of this up. Hoping that many of those that voted for the bill the first time will vote againse it if is comes up a second time because they fear for their and their familys lives. Way to go GOP. You have finally reached the top. Lead by your Joan of Arc, the one who can see Russia from here house.