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House Speaker Dennis Hastert R-Ill.) has tentatively scheduled a re-vote on the 2006 budget reconciliation bill (S. 1932) for February 1, the day after the House reconvenes following its winter recess. Moderate Republicans are feeling mounting pressure from groups like AARP to change their votes.

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Legislative Alert

Legislative Alert

 

House Speaker Dennis Hastert R-Ill.) has tentatively scheduled a re-vote on the 2006 budget reconciliation bill (S. 1932) for February 1, the day after the House reconvenes following its winter recess. Moderate Republicans are feeling mounting pressure from groups like AARP to change their votes.

 

The bill cuts back federal entitlement programs.  Among other provisions, the legislation would impose punitive new restrictions on the ability of the elderly to transfer assets before qualifying for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care.

 

The Senate passed the bill before Christmas, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote. However, procedural moves by Senate Democrats require the House to vote on the bill a second time after having passed it by a 212-206 margin at the end of an all-night session.

 

Although House Republicans "expect to narrowly approve the bill again, groups opposed to the bill's cuts are working hard to convince moderate Republicans to vote against it.  Brian Riedl, a budget analyst for the Heritage Foundation, says, "[N]othing is guaranteed over a six-week break."

 

Leading the fight against the bill is AARP, which strongly opposes the transfer restrictions and has vowed to make lawmakers who vote for them pay a political price. "This budget represents bad policy and AARP will now work to explain the full impact of this vote to its more than 36 million members," said AARP's CEO William D. Novelli.

 

Joining AARP is a temporary umbrella group, the Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities (ECAP). Spokesperson Brad Woodhouse said, "If they win, and we're not convinced they will, we want to spill blood in the process so that they are gun-shy about turning around and doing this again in the next budget." ECAP has targeted some moderate Republicans at local vigils and is organizing phone blitzes in advance of the vote.

 

"Clearly, moderate Republicans in the House were reluctant to vote in favor of these drastic changes to Medicaid," reports the National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC). According to NSCLC, several Republicans who did not vote against the bill the first time around delivered a letter in December to the congressional leadership expressing objections to the scope of the Medicaid cuts.

 

Meanwhile, in his weekly radio address Saturday, January 7, President Bush said Congress should "finish its work" and pass the budget bill. Bush said that passage would show that the "people's representatives can be good stewards of the people's money." Bush also urged Congress to make all his tax cuts permanent.

 

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said that House Republicans should "scrap this poor excuse for a budget" and "instead cancel some of the tax cuts for millionaires," which "would accomplish the same thing -- deficit reduction -- but without harming our kids, our elderly and the middle class."

 

            Richard Habiger is an elder law attorney.  You may contact him at 618-549-4529 or Richard@HabigerElderLaw.com.


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