Senate fails again to pass tax extenders bill, but House OK's 'doc fix'

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, June 24 – Senate Democrats notched up a third loss Thursday in their attempt to pass a package of tax extenders and jobless benefits. With 60 votes needed for passage, the vote was 57-41, with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) joining all Republicans in opposition to the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) insisted that the country's soaring deficit ruled out Republicans being willing to support a measure which would increase the deficit by some $33 billion to pay for a six month extension of unemployment benefits. Democrats had hoped to attract at least a few Republican votes by paring back the bill's deficit impact which earlier came in at $80 billion.

Clearly frustrated by this third failure to pass what they consider urgently needed legislation, Democrats charged that Republicans were ignoring the needs of unemployed workers for political purposes. Reid said that “Somewhere along the line, throughout these charades, this job-creating, tax-cutting, loophole-closing bill has become a political football, and that is really too bad. The debate is focused on winning and losing and not on doing what's right, and that's really too bad.”

The day's one piece of legislative success was that the stripped-out “doc fix” to protect Medicare payments to doctors was passed by the House. This reversal of an automatic pay cut for doctors was passed by the Senate last week. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) welcomed the House action, commenting that “This legislation reverses a payment cut that is jeopardizing access to physician services for Medicare beneficiaries and military families. This action was critically needed so there’s no disruption in services for anyone.”

The House's action Thursday means that the doc fix is now ready for President Obama to sign into law.

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