Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday blamed Republicans for an expected defeat of their $250 billion Medicare payment extension bill even though a host of prominent Democrats have come out against the measure.Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pointed to what he called the Republican Senate for trying to stop the measure from advancing. Still, Reid claimed to have the votes to get the extension through.Well, of course I dont bring anything to the floor if I dont think I have the votes, Reid said, adding that the bipartisan opposition to the measure is indicative of what has been going on in Washington during this time that weve had this Republican Senate.The story is the Republicans are opposing this even though they support it, Reid said. There are only 40 Republicans in the Senate, which makes it impossible for them to filibuster legislation without the support of Democrats.Reid and other top Democrats called the Medicare payments vote otherwise known as the doc fix the first vote of the health care debate and appear to be looking to cast Republicans as obstructionists before the actual debate on the broader overhaul begins.Most Republicans oppose the 10-year Medicare payment extension because it does not include offsets to cover its $250 billion price tag. But as many as eight Senate Democrats including Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) have also said they would oppose it.Reid had originally scheduled a vote to proceed to the bill for Monday but scrapped that plan when it became clear that he did not have enough Democratic support to start debate.Conrad and Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as several other Republicans, have since been trying to work out a plan to pay for the extension. For instance, Conrad and Grassley have proposed a two-year, $25 billion offset.But Reid, who reportedly brought the bill to the floor as part of a deal with the American Medical Association, has been unwilling to allow any amendments that would reduce the length of the extension or include offsets.Reid said Wednesday that he hoped to tackle the issue of whether to include a public insurance option in the final Senate health care reform bill by Wednesday evening. Reid will continue to huddle with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) to come up with the final Senate measure.Reid also met Wednesday morning with a group of moderate Senators over whether the bill should include stronger provisions on an employer mandate for health insurance, although he declined to offer up any details.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.