What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : (H.R. 4872) On a motion to table (kill) an amendment that would have provided that soldiers, veterans, and their families would not be subject to a fine if their benefits do not meet the health care legislation’s criteria for "essential benefits" coverage (2010 senate Roll Call 83)
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(H.R. 4872) On a motion to table (kill) an amendment that would have provided that soldiers, veterans, and their families would not be subject to a fine if their benefits do not meet the health care legislation’s criteria for "essential benefits" coverage
senate Roll Call 83     Mar 24, 2010
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This was ostensibly a vote on a motion to table (kill) an amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) providing that soldiers, veterans, and their families would not be subject to a fine if their benefits do not meet the criteria for "essential benefits" coverage. (Under the health care reform legislation already signed into law by President Obama, individuals are required to have insurance plans that guarantee “essential” health benefits.  These benefits include preventive care, hospital services, and prescription drugs. Individuals who do not obtain such insurance plans could be subject to a fine.) The measure Burr sought to amend was a “companion bill” making a number of changes to health care reform legislation already signed into law by President Obama. The underlying context was that Republicans were trying to attach amendments to the companion bill in order to send it back the House, where it had passed by a narrow margin. CNN reported that Republicans had chosen to offer a slew of amendments in order to “undermine the measure,” while the Associated Press characterized the amendments as “a final drive to thwart President Barack Obama's health care remake.”Burr argued his amendment would shield veterans and their families from fines imposed by health care reform legislation: "What this amendment simply does is set the minimum essential coverage as met on these programs, so the veterans' families, the children of veterans, are not at risk of determining that their insurance does not meet the minimum essential coverage, therefore, exposing them to fines."

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) argued that the goals of Burr's amendment could easily be accomplished in a separate piece of legislation, and need not jeopardize enactment of health care reform legislation. Webb said: "…If we want to fix this problem, we can fix it right now and we should fix it right now….We should not allow things to be tied up in the separate melodrama of the moment….Let the American people understand, the Republicans objected to a matter that could have been fixed by law tomorrow." Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) made a motion to table (kill) the amendment.

After the House and Senate both passed their respective health care reform bills, the two chambers had intended to reconcile those two bills into a final package. After the House and Senate passed that final package, it would have been sent to President Obama, who would have signed it into law. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), however, won a special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) before the final health care bill could be brought up for a vote. Brown's victory gave Republicans 41 votes in the Senate, leaving Democrats with 59 members – one vote short of the 60 votes they needed to defeat a unanimous Republican filibuster against the final health care bill. 

In order to pass comprehensive health care legislation without a 60-vote majority in the Senate, Democratic leaders devised a plan in which the House would pass the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590), thereby enabling the president to sign it into law. The House would then pass a separate companion bill (H.R. 4872) to make changes to the Senate health measure under a process known as "budget reconciliation." Bills considered under budget reconciliation cannot be filibustered under Senate rules. This process allowed the House to make changes to Senate-passed health care legislation without sending the entire health bill back to the Senate, where it could have been filibustered indefinitely.   The companion bill incorporated changes to the Senate health care legislation desired by House Democrats. The House passed the companion measure, and sent it to the Senate, where Democratic leaders hoped to defeat all amendments -- thereby avoiding a second vote in the House on a substantively changed bill; a vote that Democrats might have lost given the already tight margin when it was voted on the previous week.

The Senate tabled (killed) the amendment by a vote of 54-44. 54 Democrats voted "yea." All 40 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment Democratic leaders feared could have torpedoed the entire companion health care bill and would have provided that soldiers, veterans, and their families would not be subject to a fine if their benefits do not meet the criteria for "essential benefits" coverage.

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