Health Care Fight Continues In Senate
View of the U.S. Capitol, where the Senate is taking up health care reform "fixes."
The honeymoon period may be over already for the White House's newly-minted health care reform bill.
A fiery debate over additions to the law, which President Barack Obama signed into effect Tuesday, wrapped up Wednesday evening in the Senate, and voting on the amendments is currently underway.
No Republicans voted yes on Sunday's legislation, and the GOP is digging in for a long political and legal battle.
In exchange for House Democrats voting yes on the unchanged bill, Senate Democrats promised to sign off on a compromise package to smooth over hot-button issues in a process called "reconciliation."
The Democrats' proposed "fix-it" bill would cost $60 billion more. It would increase Medicare's prescription drug benefits, reduce some taxes on more expensive ("Cadillac") policies, raise taxes on upper-income earners and eliminate a special Medicaid deal for Nebraska.
But the GOP has already piled up amendments that run the gamut on dicey issues and could force Democrats into a series of politically difficult votes, from striking sweetheart deals to banning erectile dysfunction medication for sex offenders.
"This is called a fix-it bill. We're suggesting you fix it," said Judd Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, to Reuters in response to Democrat accusations that a House revote would kill the bill. "We have suggested a series of amendments that will significantly improve this bill."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) mocked Republicans for forcing Democrats into hotter political water.
"How serious can they be?" Reid said. "Offering an amendment dealing with Viagra for rapists?"
The final Senate vote could be just after midnight on Thursday or held over until Thursday's daytime session. Reid said Democrats felt confident that the package of changes will pass as is.
But if the GOP crafts an amendment too attractive for Democrats to ignore -- maybe even something related to public option, dropped from the legislation earlier this year -- the bill will be sent back to the House for a re-vote.