House sneaks Medicare patch in by voice vote

House Republicans passed Medicare payment extensions through a voice vote Thursday, catching many members by surprise.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   March 27, 2014 at 2:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- Through some tricky maneuvering Thursday, House GOP leaders snuck through passage of the so-called "Doc Fix" patch to prevent a massive cut in Medicare payments before next week's deadline.

With just days left before 24 percent cuts to Medicare providers go into effect on March 31, lawmakers abandoned hope a permanent repeal of the unpopular sustainable growth-rate formula could be agreed upon in time. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner personally negotiated a patch to prevent the cuts for the 17th time in 11 years.

As late as Thursday morning, it was unclear if the measure would pass with the necessary two-thirds vote required after Republicans brought the bill up under suspension of the rules. At least 50 Democrats -- many of whom oppose the patch in favor of a permanent repeal of the SGR -- would have needed to support it.

The House went into temporary recess, and after a closed-door meeting, called the bill up for a voice vote, catching many members by surprise. While a recorded vote can be demanded by one-fifth of the present members, no opposition to the process was raised, likely predicated on prior approval from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Members of both parties express anger and surprise at the process.

"I didn't know it happened," said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. "We should be voting."

The Senate leadership planned to move their version of the measure forward by the end of the day Thursday.

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