Michigan Senator Debbie Debbie Stabenow has criticized Republican leaders following Jim Bunning’s acts late last week to block necessary spending measures. These included extensions of federal spending for unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies, and stopping a reduction in Medicare payments which would lead to many seniors being unable to obtain medical coverage. The Hill reports:
The senator said that by remaining silent on Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) objection to a unanimous consent motion on the bill, GOP leaders implicitly offered their support for the move.
“Where is the Republican leadership on Monday? Where will the Republican leadership be next week,” Stabenow said on a conference call with reporters organized by the Democratic leadership. “Are they going to stand up and stop this…or are they going to continue by their silence to support Sen. Bunning?”
The report provides mixed signals as to whether other Republicans were prepared to join Bunning in a filibuster or if Bunning is solely to blame for stopping the measure. It also states that Don Stewart, communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, stated that “senators entered into a unanimous consent agreement for the full tax extenders bill for next week, which will include the stalled unemployment and COBRA extensions.”
The Medicare cuts which would also be postponed are a result of a flawed formula which calls for cuts based upon overall health care costs. For the last several years Congress has voted to over rule the automatic cuts. Last year House and Senate Democrats attempted to achieve a permanent fix but Republicans blocked this measure. Instead a temporary freeze on the cuts lasting through February was enacted.
It is anticipated that if the Medicare cuts are enacted a large percentage of physicians will stop accepting new Medicare patients and reduce the number they see. In order to prevent such action this week, CMS has ordered a ten day freeze on Medicare payments under the expectation that Congress will act on this problem next week.