Senate Passes Budget Reconciliation Bill, 52-47
President Clinton Vows To Veto Final Bill
The White House
The US Senate passed last Friday night its version of a budget reconciliation bill. All Democrats voted against the bill. Senator Bill Cohen (R-ME) was the ONLY Republican Senator to vote against the bill.
The Senate bill, like the House version passed October 26, dismantles the federal Medicaid program, replaces it with block grants to the states, removes many federal standards of care, allows states to set their own eligibility criteria and benefits, and cuts projected program spending by more than $170 billion over the next seven years.
The Budget Reconciliation Bill now goes to "conference" where differences between the House and Senate versions will be negotiated. The conference report will be voted on by both houses before going to President Clinton for signature or veto. The timeline for the conference committee is as follows:
House-Senate conference committee expects to complete its work by November 10, followed by a review from the Congressional Budget office.
The "conferenced" bill will be sent to the Senate and House floors for a vote. Passage is expected.
A final bill could be sent to President Clinton before Thanksgiving.
The Conference Committee
Conferees from the House of Representatives have been selected. Members responsible for the Medicaid portion of the bill are: Armey (R-TX); Barton (R-TX); Bilirakis (R-FL); Bliley (R-VA); Boehner (R-OH); Bonior (D-MI); DeLay (R-TX); Dingell (D-MI); Greenwood (R-PA); Hall (R-TX); Hastert (R-IL); Kasich (R-OH); Pallone (D-NJ); Paxon (R-NY); Sabo (D-MN); Stenholm (D-TX); Tauzin (R-LA); Walker (R-PA); Waxman (D-CA); and Wyden (D-OR).
Senate conferees on the Medicaid portion of the bill are limited to Roth (R-DE); Dole (R-KS); and Moynihan (D-NY).
Senior House Democratic staff tell us that Democratic conferees are not likely to have any substantive input regarding the terms of the final bill. The Republican leadership has the votes to do what it wishes with the bill, at least at this point in the process.
AIDS Action will be communicating the following message to the conferees: Our support for the Senate provisions which provide some protection for the disabled, as passed by the Chafee amendment, as well as a person's right to sue the state. We will be very clear about our strong opposition to both the House and Senate Medicaid provisions. Although both versions of Medicaid are inadequate for people with HIV/AIDS; it is in our interest to preserve the modest Senate improvements in the final Reconciliation report.
Grassroots Action Needed Now
Everyone Can Participate
If your representative or senator is on the Conference Committee, write or call and urge them to include the Senate provisions which provide eligibility protections for disabled individuals receiving SSI, and allow an individual his/her right to sue.
Moderate Republican Members:
Call Senator Bill Cohen of Maine and thank him for standing up for all people who rely on Medicaid for their basic health care. His numbers are phone (202) 224-2523; fax (202) 224-2693; and TTY (202) 224-0846.
If your Senator is a moderate Republican -- Cohen (ME), Snowe (ME), Chafee (RI), Specter (PA), Hatfield (OR), Kassebaum (KS) -- thank him/her for supporting the Chafee amendment and urge him/her to tell Senator Dole (KS) to bring a Conference Report back to the Senate that retains the Chafee provisions.
Now is the time to call and write moderate Republican members of Congress. Let them know that we support their commitment to the social welfare of our country and we know that they do so in the face of alienation and retaliation from their Republican counterparts. Call and ask moderate Republicans to put pressure on Majority Leader Dole (R-KS) to keep the modest gains in the Senate version of the bill.
President Clinton has repeatedly promised to veto this bill. Continue to flood the White House with letters and calls asking the president to veto the Reconciliation bill because of the Medicaid changes, and ask him to insist on a compromise with the Congress that maintains the entitlement status of Medicaid and provides adequate federal funding for the program. Remind President Clinton that people with HIV/AIDS will suffer greatly if these changes to the nation's fragile health care system are implemented. Hundreds of thousands of people could be denied access to and coverage for services, including life-saving prescription drugs, and home and community-based care.
California is a critical state for the Clinton Administration's campaign to retain the White House in 1996. We must do everything possible to have a strong show of support for retaining the Medicaid program from the state of California. Paid advertising, op-eds, local rallies, letters to the president from Democratic officials and major donors could make a tremendous difference in convincing the Administration that doing the right thing on Medicaid is politically important.
For more information, contact:
Anthony Rios, Community Liaison
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009