In a meeting of House and Senate leaders intended to resolve differences in State Children's Health Insurance Program legislation on Tuesday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) talked with House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) about the possibility of a stand-alone Medicare bill, CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 9/11).
SCHIP legislation approved by the House (HR 3162) would reduce payments to Medicare Advantage plans and increase the federal cigarette tax by 45 cents per pack to increase funding for SCHIP by about $50 billion over five years. The bill also would make a number of revisions to Medicare.
The Senate version (S 1893) would reauthorize SCHIP and increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents per pack to boost funding for the program by $35 billion over five years. House leaders last week reaffirmed their commitment to retaining portions of House SCHIP legislation that would affect Medicare (California Healthline, 9/6).
Rangel said he was unsure how House lawmakers would react to the notion of a separate Medicare bill. "It's hard for me to separate this bill," Rangel said, adding, "It wasn't sold in two parts. I can tell someone, 'Trust me, we're taking Medicare up later.' And they'll say, 'Well, that's the only reason I went for the cigarette tax.'"
While lawmakers thus far have been unable to reach a compromise on the legislation, Baucus said the two chambers will "work it out." Baucus noted that Senate leaders support his insistence that the compromise meet the 60-vote threshold in the Senate (Johnson, CongressDaily, 9/11).
Meanwhile, House and Senate Democrats are close to finishing the details of continuing resolutions that would provide short-term extensions for the agriculture appropriations bill and SCHIP, aides said Tuesday, CongressDaily reports. The CR, which likely would last no longer than Nov. 16, would not include funding for the Iraq war.
According to CongressDaily, the CR would "provide a month or more of breathing room for what are likely to be intense negotiations on Iraq war spending, domestic appropriations, [SCHIP] and other must-do bills" (Cohn, CongressDaily, 9/12).