Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coburn: Reconcile this. No federally funded Viagra for sex offenders.

After the President's historic signing of the Senate health care bill this week, all eyes have turned to the Senate, where the House reconciliation bill to "fix" the legislation will be considered.  The reconciliation process restricts debate on the bill to 20 hours, but allows unlimited amendments. Senate democrats have been instructed to vote no on all GOP amendments, to avoid the delay of having to send the bill back to the House for another vote.  Republican Senator Tom Coburn knows all of this and is doing his best to put Dems on the record opposing some very enticing amendments.  From Fox News:
One of Coburn's amendments would prohibit federal taxpayer money, in the form of subsidies for the poor to buy insurance, from being used by sex offenders to buy drugs like Viagra. It goes further, according to a release from his spokesperson, prohibiting coverage of "Viagra and other ED medications to convicted child molesters, rapists, and sex offenders, and prohibits coverage of abortion drugs."

I've said in this blog before that Republicans were going to put forward really difficult amendments. Pretty tough to disagree with this one, right?

Democrats are anxious to see no changes to this bill, as any change whatsoever would result in the bill being sent back to the House for approval...and the whole circus might start over again. Republicans, of course, want that to happen, as any delay might mean House members could rethink their vote.

Other amendments are starting to come in. The very first one, offered by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, leading the GOP effort on reconciliation, would take Medicare savings in the bill and plow them back into the same program.

The second amendment to be offered is one by Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, which would remove a number of the so-called "sweetheart deals," provisions that are targeted to specific states, like the $300 million for Louisiana, which still suffers from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Republicans have dubbed this provision the "Louisiana Purchase." McCain said in a floor speech that help for states in crisis is fine but not on a health care bill.
It is not too difficult to imagine how a vote against Coburn's Viagra amendment could be used to devastating effect against a vulnerable Democratic Senator in November's election.  Other Coburn amendments are outlined here.

You can watch today's Senate proceedings on CSPAN2.  Live stream here.

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