GOP Amendments Aim to Box-In Senate Dems

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., second from left, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 23, 2010, following the weekly caucus luncheons. From left are, Senate Minority Whip John Kyl of Ariz., Gregg, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

While health care reform is the law of the land, there's still the matter of that other bill the House passed Sunday.

The reconciliation bill contains the package of fixes to the new law. It advanced to the Senate after the House's historic vote Sunday night. There, Republicans are throwing up hurdles to try to keep it from passing.

Republicans can offer unlimited amendments to this bill - and they are, reports CBS News Correspondent Nancy Cordes. First up was an amendment to prevent Democrats from taking $500 billion from Medicare to pay for new programs.

"This will all end up rolling into a giant ball like a huge, massive asteroid headed at Earth which is basically going to land on our children's heads as debt," Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said.

Complete Coverage: Health Care Reform

Republicans say their amendments are designed to improve a health care bill they don't like, but some amendments are clearly designed to paint Democrats into a corner. "No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs to Sex Offenders" reads one from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Vote against it, and Democrats make themselves vulnerable to embarrassing campaign ads in the fall. Vote for it, and they risk changing the bill so that it has to go back to the House for yet another tough vote.

Read the Text (PDF): Complete Senate Bill | Reconciliation Measure

That's a big risk because this bill contains changes so significant that House Democrats would not have passed the larger bill - the one President Obama signed Tuesday - without promises that this one would follow.

This bill delays a new tax on high cost insurance plans until 2018. It boosts penalties for medium and large companies that don't offer health insurance, and it closes a gap in prescription drug benefits for seniors.

Democratic leaders are instructing their members to vote against every single Republican amendment, even if they like them, to avoid what they see as a slippery slope. They're hoping if some irresistible amendments make it onto the bill they are so minimal and minor that the House re-vote will be routine and uneventful.

There's 20 hours for debate before senators vote on all the amendments, so it's possible the outcome of the bill will be known by this weekend.

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  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.