What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : America's Poor : (H.R. 3590) Legislation making major changes in the national health care system - - on a motion to waive the provisions of the Congressional Budget Act as they apply to an amendment offered by Sen. Reid of Nevada (2009 senate Roll Call 390)
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(H.R. 3590) Legislation making major changes in the national health care system - - on a motion to waive the provisions of the Congressional Budget Act as they apply to an amendment offered by Sen. Reid of Nevada
senate Roll Call 390     Dec 23, 2009
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on a motion to waive the provisions of the Congressional Budget Act as they apply to provisions in an amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) to major health care legislation. The Reid amendment made numerous significant changes to the legislation. Among those were some that created requirements for the states to spend additional funds, although the amendment did not provide those funds. Such requirements, known as “unfunded mandates”, were ordinarily prohibited by the Congressional Budget Act. An “unfunded mandate” has been described as “a statute or regulation that requires a state or local government to perform certain actions, yet provides no money for fulfilling the requirements.”

Sen. Corker (R-TN) opposed the Budget Act waiver. He said: “There is almost nothing held in lower esteem than for the Senate to pass laws in this body that cause mayors and governors to have budgetary problems because we create unfunded mandates . . . in 1995, in a bipartisan way, a law was created . . . to keep us from passing unfunded mandates. The Congressional Budget Office has stated without a doubt that this bill violates that.”

Corker urged his fellow senators to vote against the waiver because, he argued, the prohibition on unfunded mandates “is important. It says everything about the way we do business here in Washington. Please, let's not pass another huge unfunded mandate to the states at a time when they all are having budgetary problems. This speaks to the essence of who we are and the arrogance many people perceive us to have here in Washington.”

Sen. Baucus (D-MT), who chairs the tax-writing Finance Committee and was among those leading the support for the health care legislation, urged approval of the waiver. He acknowledged that the “unfunded mandate” at issue imposes “an obligation on states to extend their coverage on Medicaid.” He then justified that obligation by noting: “Under existing law, on average, the federal government pays about 57 cents on the dollar for every dollar spent under Medicaid. Under this legislation, the federal government will pay 100 percent of that obligation for newly enrolled beneficiaries up through the year 2016. Afterward, the federal government will pay on average 90 percent of the cost of new enrollees. Therefore, I think this is a very fair (overall) deal for states . . . .”

The vote on the waiver was 57-42. All fifty-seven “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Three other Democrats joined all thirty-nine Republicans present and voted “nay”. As a result, the provisions of the Congressional Budget Act were waived as they applied to the unfunded mandates in the amendment offered by Sen. Reid.

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