Washington (CNN) - The nation's leading advocacy group for senior citizens on Wednesday endorsed the spending cuts that the Senate health care bill proposes for the government-run Medicare health program for seniors.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who is leading the effort to pass the Democratic bill, the AARP says the measure "does not reduce any guaranteed Medicare benefits" while it makes needed reforms to the program that is predicted to become insolvent within a decade.
The letter, signed by AARP Chief Executive Officer Addison Barry Rand, calls for the Senate to reject an amendment by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona that would effectively kill the health care bill by sending it back to committee to remove all provisions that reduce Medicare spending.
In debate on his amendment this week, McCain has criticized the AARP for backing the health care bill, which he claimed would harm senior citizens by reducing Medicare benefits.
Republicans unanimously oppose the Senate health care bill so far, and the first three days of debate have been slowed by procedural maneuvering and drawn-out rhetoric. Several amendments have been proposed, including McCain's, but no votes have occurred due to what Democrats complain are Republican stall tactics.
"Unless the Republican leadership comes forward with a reasonable approach to these amendments, I think our patience is wearing thin," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber. "They don't want to call theseamendments for votes and we're just not going to sit here forever and see this bill go down."
Republicans denied they are purposely delaying action on the bill, but said they won't agree to end debate on individual amendments until they've had ample time to consider them.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, objecting to a voting schedule offered Tuesday by Democrats, said there were "a number of people that want to speak" about the McCain amendment before a vote.
One senior Republican senator, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, circulated a memo to his colleagues Wednesday detailing "the tools we have under Senate rules to insist on a full, complete and fully informed debate" on health care.
Gregg's memo spelled out more than a dozen "minority party rights," including insisting on a quorum of 51 senators to conduct legislative business and requiring the text of all amendments to be read aloud in the Senate chamber.
If the two sides can't reach agreement on the length of debate for amendments and when votes will be held, Democrats could use several floor procedures to accelerate the debate. Each procedure, however, contains potential pitfalls that make Democrats reluctant to employ them.
For example, Democrats could try to cut off debate on each amendment by filing cloture motions. However, cloture motions take days to play out, making the procedure impractical for speeding up debate.
Another tactic would be trying to table amendments, which would prevent their further consideration. The risk is that if a tabling motion fails, the underlying amendment is automatically considered approved. Therefore, controversial amendments could be adopted through the simple majority vote to kill a tabling motion, rather than the 60 votes needed to pass the actual
amendment in the 100-member chamber.
At a closed meeting on the subject Wednesday, Senate Democrats vowed to work weekends and even Christmas Day, if necessary, to pass the bill by the end of the year, which is their stated goal.
In floor debate so far, Republicans have adopted the unusual position of defending the Medicare program they have traditionally opposed. Led by McCain and McConnell, Republican speakers have insisted the more than $400 billion in proposed Medicare spending cuts over 10 years would reduce benefits for senior citizens.
Democrats responded that the Republicans are spreading misinformation as a scare tactic, and insist that the reduced Medicare spending would come from eliminating waste and fraud in the popular program to ensure its long-term
The AARP letter Wednesday backed the Democratic position.
"With respect to Medicare, AARP supports policies to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse - and to improve quality, value and sustainability of the program for current and future beneficiaries," the letter said.
It noted the Medicare spending cuts in the Senate bill focus on "provider reimbursement reforms" - meaning reductions in how much government money gets paid to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers - rather than benefits for Medicare recipients.
On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, one of the architects of the bill, noted the Medicare spending cuts were much less than the $2 trillion in 10 years that health care industry officials have said the Medicare
program could shed.
The 2,074-page Senate bill would provide health insurance to an additional 31 million people at a cost of almost $850 billion.
Democrats have framed the debate that began Monday as historic and said the bill would provide vital health insurance for almost all Americans, hold down spiraling costs that threaten the U.S. economy and instill needed reforms to ensure the long-term solvency of Medicare.
Republicans countered that the bill is too big, too expensive and would cause more harm than good.
The House has passed its version of a health care bill, and if the Senate eventually passes a bill, the two measures would be merged by a congressional conference committee. Both chambers then would have to approve the revised bill before it could go to President Barack Obama's desk.
Obama has made health care his top domestic priority for 2009, and is pushing for Congress to pass a final bill this year.
–CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this story.
I had a knee replacement and two cataract surgeries (second one is in the morning) this year because I cannot pay out any more money to any doctor on the face of the planet when costs skyrocket next year and after.
I am an inch from becoming a thief in order to survive.
America has no respect for its eldery population. America has little respect for much of anything.
That's because the AARP sees an opportunity to make $$$ as a GAP FILLER with this DUMocRATic HC bill.
Follow the money........
Even if Jesus comes down and blesses this bill, the Republicans will find any excuse to say they wouldn't vote for it. The truth is, the longer the keep this up, the more fodder they give up for negative advertising come 2010 and 2012. At some point someone has to tell them just quit the foolishness because it will come back to haunt the entire Republican Party.
Even the AARP wantss Mccain to mind his own busiess. What kind of spin will the repos put on this endorsment???
The AARP has NO creditability anymore and should be avoided like the plague!
Thank you, AARP!
We should do what McCain wants because he won the election in 2008 and is our President . . . oh, really . . . uh . . . nevermind.
Get Off My Lawn !!!!
I smell a RAT, whose pockets are the AARP in HMMMMMM. Seems they are not in step with their constituants. Lets not play politics with our health.
McCain is a songbird (traitor) left over from the Viet Nam war and he knows NOTHING about healthcare because he was a military brat and then has had government provided healthcare the rest of his life.
VOTE HIM OUT ARIZONA. HE'S AN OBSTRUCTIONIST that is going senile fast.
I condemn AARP also. They do not speak for the elderly. This association is out to make money they could care less if the elderly's benefits are cut. That gives them the chance to sell more of their worthless AARP supplement insurance. This is from a 71 year old recipient of medicare because my military benefits won't care for me since the closest facility is over one hundred miles away and is not feasible for me to drive there and back home. I now have to reply on medicare after spending 30 years in the U.S. Army. Thank you muslim OBAMA and my government for nothing.
"Republicans countered that the bill is too big, too expensive and would cause more harm than good"
May be if the Republicans would give up their free health care for the rest of their life and their family life may this bill for the people would not cost a thing. I am sure if the bill is for the little people it is no good as far as the Republicans are concern.
John McCain can go to one of his 6 home and stay out of the people way until this bill past. He do not need free health care so how do he know what we need.
The real reason Republicans find every possible opposition is because they want to see Obama and the Democrats fail. Their political futures are at stake if not.
So one of the biggest most powerful lobbying groups in the United States, which sells everything to travel discounts to health insurance to its members, and is a BILLION DOLLAR "non-profit" (wink wink)....says they are down with cutting millions from Medicare.
How nice of them. And if you need extra coverage to pick up the cost of care left over from these cuts, guess who can sell it to you? AARP.
They are going to make billions of this deal.
Good thing Obama's not selling out to special interest groups and lobbyists.
AARP sold out on the Medicare D drug plan in which the American Taxpayer spends 30% over international market value for the same drug in the same bottle made by the same drug company.
If you don't pay doctors they won't be in business.
This is only a payment plan, an insurance bill and will not improve health care.
Improvements in Health Care come from freedom and free competition in the health care market place. Consumer choice drives medical improvements. Limiting health care by the "power of the buck" only promotes bad choice or no choice not good health and wellness.
ON every major health issue the AMA has been dead wrong and the Natural Health Wellness Community has been 100% right.
Vitamin C given iv actually kills human cancer cells but not human cells, per NIH but opposed by AMA.
Money for nutrition is dollars not going to drug companies, well, that is unless they also make good nutrients too.
Another reason not to renew my AARP membership.
Ironically, the cuts being debated right now are the same ones McCain proposed during last year's campaign. He's not really a maverick, he's a hypocrit.
nothing they say can be believed.....Seniors unite against Obamacare and his death panels......
Obama is ONE and DONE.
republican stall tactics...? I guess the conservatives should go along with Obama's plan to bankrupt the nation, creating further divide between the rich and the poor. Every proposal that OBama and his liberal hacks have come up with will fall squarely on the shoulders of the middle class...and will burden us into poverty; Obama's rich buddies will gain further favor with him...and he does this all under the guise of things like ACORN...and uniting with Muslim groups....by 2012, if we're still one nation, we'll be glad he's gone, and will have to find a staunch conservative to pull us out of the trench this incompetent administration is digging....
So, did Reid promise AARP Chief Executive Officer Addison Barry Rand 300 million of taxpayers money?
How disappointing aarp is. they go up on premiums every year. We are a married couple 74 and 71. All of us need to to change our policies from arrp. We all need to join the teabaggers and change our votes to replace these. It isn't fair that 60 people are going to decide for the US our fate with health care. The Congress and all the gov't should have to take the same health plan as well as the rest. They think they are all above it. Will punish the middle class to pay for all the illegals . If illegal send them back to where ever..........We the seniors now have paid a life time into social security and the don't want a work sit home and have more kids for us to pay for or abortions. Everyone is born equal and what you make of your life is your fate,
dirty harry better give aarp another $18 million because seniors are cancelling their memberships with this corrupt outfit by the thousands. Is aarp and acorn of the same blood?
Opponents of the healthcare plan have tried desperately to frighten seniors by citing "cuts in Medicare." This is deceptive and shameful. The "cuts" are in Medicare spending because the previous Administration banned Medicare from negotiating lower fees and drug costs. Medicare will now have the same negotiating power that insurance companies have, thereby reducing costs NOT benefits!
Shame on those who are serving the interests of insurance and pharmaceutical companies at the expense of our senior citizens!
Its well known the AARP has been "purchased" by the Obama administration......$18m in taxpayers money & they will support just about anything.
The AARP has lost its integrity and represents only the administrators of the organization. It truly no longer represents the views of the senior citizens of this country.
Seriously, does anyone really believe that the Federal Government will really ever save $400 billion in Medicare costs in 10 years to help pay for the Senate Health Care bill? Remember, these are exactly the same cast of characters that just sold you 4 million jobs for $1 trillion. Have you looked at the unemployment figures lately?