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The Senate, run by the GOP, passed the socialist Medicare RX Drug entitlement. They had three chances to kill it, and refused. Here's how the votes happened.

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A Look at the Three Senate Votes Establishing the Drug Entitlement

The Senate, run by the GOP, passed the socialist Medicare RX Drug entitlement. They had three chances to kill it, and refused. Here’s how the votes happened.

Vote #1

On November 25, in three separate votes, the Senate invoked cloture, waived budget objections, and passed President Bush’s proposed Medicare prescription drug entitlement for senior citizens (H.R. 1), that had already passed the House (see rollcall at right).

Only nine Republicans opposed the bill in the Senate. One of them, Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), complained that the bill “would be detrimental to the future solvency of our nation, and leave future generations with a reckless and unjust financial burden.” He called the final version of the Medicare bill “a voluminous package which represents the single largest expansion of Medicare since its creation, offering enormous profits and protections for a few of the country’s most powerful interest groups, paid for with the borrowed money of American taxpayers for generations and generations to come.”

Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D.-Md.) was among the liberal Democrats opposing the bill because they think it is insufficiently generous with taxpayers’ money. “The conference report provides inadequate coverage while at the same time undermining Medicare, a program that has served our seniors for over 37 years,” said Sarbanes. “Under this bill, Medicare beneficiaries will pay an estimated premium of $35 per month although that premium level is not guaranteed and it could be higher. After meeting a $250 annual deductible, 75% of a beneficiary’s drug costs are covered up to $2,250. A beneficiary receives no coverage for drug costs between $2,251 and $3,600, though they are still required to continue paying monthly premiums during this coverage gap. Once drug costs exceed $3,600, the drug plan would cover 95% of a Medicare beneficiary’s drug expenses.”

Sarbanes then showed his hand, revealing that he wants the new government insurance plan to supplant private insurance plans. “This drug benefit is insufficient and much less than many retirees receive through existing coverage,” he said.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R.-N.M.), a supporter of the bill, said little in the final debate about the bill itself, but lots about the political ramifications, which he thought would benefit Republicans. He noted that the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)-the large liberal senior citizens’ group that almost always serves as a lapdog for Democrats-was supporting President Bush’s bill. In the weeks leading up to the bill’s passage, this caused some Democrats to accuse AARP of suspicious ties to the insurance industry.

“Today we have a bushel of good news,” said Domenici. “We passed this bill that our seniors have been asking for. It is amazing, the AARP supports it. I don’t know whether [the Democrats] don’t like it because it isn’t theirs or it isn’t good. I would say it is a tossup from what I can tell. Part of the Democrats don’t think it is good, but part of them don’t think it is good because it isn’t theirs. They chose now even to blame the AARP; that there was something nefarious involved in the passage of this bill. I hope the millions of people in the AARP understand what the Democrats are saying.”

Three Senate votes were taken on the final version of H.R. 1. First, Democrats and a small remnant of Republicans tried to filibuster the bill, but did not have the support needed to block an up-or-down vote on the measure. The vote to invoke cloture is shown below, with a “yes” vote being a vote to invoke cloture and proceed to a final vote on the bill , in effect a vote for the bill, and a “no” vote being a vote against cloture and, in effect, a vote against the bill. Sixty votes were required to invoke cloture.

FOR THE CLOTURE MOTION: 70 AGAINST THE CLOTURE MOTION: 29
REPUBLICANS FOR (47):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Chambliss
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
DeWine
Dole
Domenici
Ensign
Enzi
Fitzgerald
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
Lugar
McConnell
Murkowski
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Smith
Snowe
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas
Voinovich
Warner

DEMOCRATS FOR (22):
Baucus
Biden
Breaux
Carper
Conrad
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dorgan
Feinstein
Johnson
Kohl
Landrieu
Lincoln
Mikulski
Miller
Murray
Nelson
Nelson (Neb.)
Pryor
Reid (Nev.)
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (3):
Chafee
Hagel
McCain

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (26):
Akaka
Bayh
Bingaman
Boxer
Byrd
Cantwell
Clinton
Dodd
Durbin
Edwards
Feingold
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Kennedy
Kerry
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lieberman
Reed (R.I.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow

NOT VOTING: 1

REPUBLICANS (1): DEMOCRATS (0):
Shelby

Vote #2

After the cloture vote succeeded, another parliamentary hurdle was raised against H.R. 1, an objection that its official cost of $400 billion exceeded the ten-year budget limit passed by the Senate earlier this year. In response, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) moved to override the objection.

Sixty votes are needed to override this kind of objection and, in parliamentary language, “waive the Congressional Budget Act” with respect to H.R. 1. A final vote could not have been taken on the bill if there had been fewer than 60 “yes” votes, meaning that if just two conservatives had changed their votes to “no,” the bill would not have passed the Senate.

A “yes” vote was a vote for the motion to waive the budget act. It was, in effect, a vote for the bill. A “no” vote was a vote against waiving the budget act and, in effect, a vote to kill the bill.

FOR THE MOTION: 61 AGAINST THE MOTION: 39
REPUBLICANS FOR (49):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Chafee
Chambliss
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
DeWine
Dole
Domenici
Ensign
Enzi
Fitzgerald
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
Lugar
McConnell
Murkowski
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Smith
Snowe
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas
Voinovich
Warner

DEMOCRATS FOR (11):
Baucus
Breaux
Carper
Conrad
Dorgan
Feinstein
Landrieu
Lincoln
Miller
Nelson (Neb.)
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (2):
Hagel
McCain

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (37):
Akaka
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Byrd
Cantwell
Clinton
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Durbin
Edwards
Feingold
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Johnson
Kennedy
Kerry
Kohl
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lieberman
Mikulski
Murray
Nelson
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow

Vote #3

Finally, by a vote of 54 to 44, the Senate passed the massive, new, Medicare prescription drug entitlement. Based on the vote totals, it is evident that some of the senators who voted against the bill on this final passage rollcall did not believe it was critical to block the bill, because they earlier had voted for cloture and/or to waive the budget act. Nonetheless, the final passage of the bill was much closer than originally anticipated.

A “yes” vote was a vote to expand government with a huge new entitlement to federally funded prescription drug coverage. A “no” vote was a vote against the bill.

FOR THE BILL: 54 AGAINST THE BILl: 44
REPUBLICANS FOR (42):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Chambliss
Cochran
Coleman
Collins
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
DeWine
Dole
Domenici
Enzi
Fitzgerald
Frist
Grassley
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lugar
McConnell
Murkowski
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Smith
Snowe
Specter
Stevens
Talent
Thomas
Voinovich
Warner

DEMOCRATS FOR (11):
Baucus
Breaux
Carper
Conrad
Dorgan
Feinstein
Landrieu
Lincoln
Miller
Nelson (Neb.)
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (9):
Chafee
Ensign
Graham (S.C.)
Gregg
Hagel
Lott
McCain
Nickles
Sununu

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (35):
Akaka
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Byrd
Cantwell
Clinton
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Durbin
Edwards
Feingold
Graham (Fla.)
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Johnson
Kennedy
Kohl
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Mikulski
Murray
Nelson
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow

NOT VOTING: 2

REPUBLICANS (0): DEMOCRATS (2):
Kerry
Lieberman
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