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Reid Hopes Recess Heat Will Change Medicare Votes

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems happy to let Republicans squirm over the next week as senior citizens and doctors hammer the GOP for blocking a bill that would prevent a significant cut in Medicare payments.

The Senate fell just one vote short in a late Thursday vote on legislation to block a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. Republicans howled at Reid's decision to adjourn the Senate for a week knowing that the cuts will go into effect on July 1.

But it's clear that Reid believes the pressure from the powerful doctors' and senior citizens' lobby over the July 4 recess will be strong enough to convince at least one more Republican to cross over and support the legislation, which the White House has promised to veto. On top of that, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who would have surely voted for the Medicare bill, missed the vote due to his ongoing brain tumor treatments. The House has already achieved a veto-proof margin on the same bill, so Reid believes there will be intense pressure on Republicans to give in when the Senate returns July 7.

"Despite the fact that every Democratic senator present voted to proceed, the vast majority of Senate Republicans voted in lockstep to block this important bipartisan legislation, even though it overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this week," Reid said. “I have decided that the Senate will again vote on the motion to proceed to this legislation shortly after we return from the July 4th recess. Senate Republicans will be given another opportunity to reconsider their unfortunate decision to hurt patients and doctors."

Republicans oppose the bill because it would take money from Medicare Advantage, a premium program, in order to stall the 10.6 percent cut in physicians pay from Medicare.

Some lawmakers have warned that doctors will immediately start dropping Medicare patients next week, rather than see a 10.6 percent cut in the fees they receive. But it seems clear that Reid intends to find a way to push the bill through and achieve at least the 60 vote threshold needed to clear the Senate.

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