The Blue Dogs have successfully watered down, and significantly delayed, the passage of the economic relief bill. It will not pass before recess:
The U.S. Senate will not take up a package of tax credits and federal-benefit-program extensions before lawmakers leave town for a one-week recess, a senior Democratic aide said Thursday.
The House may pass an extremely watered down version of the bill on Friday morning, before going on recess themselves. However, in the Senate, since Republicans will use procedural moves that would require 60-votes and at least four days to pass the bill, the Senate has just decided to call it off for the holiday. Harry Reid had planned to stay in session through the weekend to pass the bill, but that was back when the House was expected to pass the bill on Wednesday. At this point, even if the leadership had decided to stay in session through the holiday, only a couple of Democratic Senators would have had to skip town to make passage impossible.
This bill--which reportedly had enough votes for passage in the Senate--was intended as a $200 billion, second stimulus of sorts. Originally, it provided grants to states to help pay for Medicare and Medicaid, created six month extensions for unemployment and COBRA benefits, renewed several middle class and small business tax cuts, and infused the economy with needed infrastructure spending. It needed to be passed by June 2nd, too, when hundreds of thousands were set to lose unemployment and COBRA benefits, and when Medicare was set to cut payments to doctors by over 20%. Also, there is this little thing called the election coming up, too.
But, the Blue Dogs blew the whole thing up, even after the bill was watered down to $144 billion. The version they will vote on tomorrow is watered down even further, cutting $30 billion and ending COBRA altogether:
According to BusinessWeek, the original bill is being split into two separate bills, one that would extend unemployment benefits and one that would provide a 19-month reprieve for doctors from scheduled cuts in Medicare payments.
The House dropped the federal subsidy for COBRA health insurance all together. It won't be in either bill. That program, which helped unemployed people pay for health insurance, will lapse May 31.
This latest version of the bill is $30 billion cheaper and would add $60 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The House will vote on it tomorrow.
Splitting it into two bills will cause even more problems, as it will make the legislation take an even longer time to wind its way through the Senate.
When some version is eventually passed, it retroactively restore the benefits people lost. The delays and watering down of the package will, however, still cause a lot of damage. Its almost enough to make you want to see Blue Dogs lose, even if it meas Republicans take their seats:
"We just feel that these provisions warrant more scrutiny than they've received versus just putting them together in a broad package, no changes, no questions asked and asking us to vote for it," said Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D., S.D.). Ms. Herseth Sandlin is a leader of the Blue Dog Democrat Coalition, a group that advocates controlling government spending.
Nice. Herseth Sandlin's sanctimonious process whining is going to hurt hundreds of thousands of Americans really badly.