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Medicare bill heads toward House debate

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The House Rules Committee Friday afternoon sent the $395 billion Medicare prescription drug bill to the House floor.

Democrats complained they did not have time to read the bill so rules committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said at least four hours of debate would be allowed Friday on the House floor. After that an up or down vote could follow. The measure is expected to pass the House, largely along a party line vote.

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Legislative aides told UPI there still was a concerted effort under way to shore up support of conservative Republicans, who are unhappy the compromise approved by a conference committee at 1:30 a.m. Friday does not do more to privatize the $282 billion Medicare program, which serves 42 million people.

The Senate also was expected to consider the bill over the weekend, with a vote coming possibly as late as Monday. The final vote there is less predictable, but as of Friday Democrats expected to support the bill included Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, John Breaux and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Max Baucus of Montana.

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