Medicare, Debt Ceiling Votes Put Lawmakers On Spot Senate Democrats forced their GOP colleagues Wednesday to vote on a House Republican budget, getting most of them to back an unpopular plan to privatize Medicare. Next week, a similar vote in the GOP-run House on raising the debt ceiling could make Democrats uncomfortable.
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Medicare, Debt Ceiling Votes Put Lawmakers On Spot

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Medicare, Debt Ceiling Votes Put Lawmakers On Spot

Medicare, Debt Ceiling Votes Put Lawmakers On Spot

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA: Last night, when Reid called for a vote on bringing up the House budget in the Senate, he zeroed in on Medicare.

HARRY REID: The Republican plan to kill Medicare is a plan to make the rich richer and the sick sicker.

WELNA: But the top Republican on the Budget Committee, Alabama's Jeff Sessions, said Democrats just don't get it.

JEFF SESSIONS: They think they can scare people by saying we're going to end Medicare, and they're going to vote on it. And the vote in our Democratic politicians' mind is that we defend Medicare and all of you oppose Medicare. The American people are getting too smart for that. I don't believe they're going to buy that path any longer.

WELNA: For Republican Mike Johanns of Nebraska, it was simply campaign politics.

MIKE JOHANNS: These votes, I guarantee, are all about political fodder for next year's election season.

WELNA: Five Republicans - two of them up for re-election next year - broke ranks with their party and voted with Democrats to block the Ryan budget, 57- 40. Alaska's Lisa Murkowski was one of the renegades.

LISA MURKOWSKI: The Medicare reform piece is not one that I'm 100 percent with. Maybe I'm - maybe I'm looking for the perfect here, but anyway, I'm voting no.

WELNA: Pointing to this week's victory in the New York House district, Senate Democrat Campaign Committee chairwoman Patty Murray said it's clear the GOP Medicare plan is giving pause to a lot of other Republicans as well.

PATTY MURRAY: So I'm confident that Senate Democrats will be able to play offense in races across the country by remaining focused on the Republican effort to end Medicare in order to pay for an almost 30 percent tax-rate reduction for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations.

WELNA: Ask about the Senate Democrats putting his budget up for a vote before offering a plan of their own, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan was dismissive.

PAUL RYAN: It would be nice if they actually wrote a budget and tried to pass a budget. I think it's more political theater than anything.

WELNA: Which is exactly what House Democrats are saying about the Republicans' plan to hold a vote next week on raising the debt ceiling - without attaching any debt-reduction measures that would make such a vote politically safer for both sides. Democrats have backed off earlier demands for a vote simply on raising the debt limit, which has already been reached. But House Republican Conference chairman Jeb Hensarling says that vote's going ahead.

JEB HENSARLING: This is something that the secretary of Treasury has requested. It's something that I think it's a 100, perhaps 150 different House Democrats have requested. We don't believe that's the way to go, but I think it's important to let the president know that that is not where the support of Congress is. So this will let him know that the votes aren't there and hopefully hasten negotiations.

WELNA: New Jersey House Democrat Rob Andrews says Republicans are playing a very dangerous game with this vote.

ROB ANDREWS: Because what you're going to get next week is a headline that says: U.S. House fails to raise debt ceiling. I don't know what global investors are going to make of that headline, but I don't think they should be reading it.

WELNA: Will you vote to raise the debt ceiling?

ANDREWS: I probably will.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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