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Senate Kills GOP Amendment to Send Health Bill Back to Committee

The Senate on Thursday afternoon completed a series of votes on four amendments to the health care reform package, with Senators voting 58-42 to defeat the most contentious proposal by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to pull the bill off the floor.

The amendment, which would have stripped Medicare cuts worth $446 billion from the $848 billion package and sent the bill back to the Finance Committee to be adjusted, was supported by all 40 Republicans and two Democrats: Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Jim Webb (Va.). Meanwhile, an amendment by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to strengthen Medicare was approved by all 100 Senators.

Republicans vowed to offer measures similar to the McCain amendment to try to force Democrats into tough votes on Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly. McCain said he would keep attacking the issue.

“Seniors all over this country are more and more aroused — they’re taking away their benefits. They’re taking away a half a billion dollars from Medicare to create a new entitlement program,— McCain said after the vote. “I’ve never seen such responses in my state as we are getting from— the Democrats’ health care bill.

Republican leaders excoriated Democrats and President Barack Obama for pushing through a health care bill they characterized as a job-killer at a time of 10.2 percent unemployment.

“The best you can hope for out of the health care bill that’s on the floor … is the status quo,— Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) said.

Also Thursday, Senators voted 61-39 in favor of an amendment to add coverage for women’s preventive health services to the current reform bill, with Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, and David Vitter (La.), joining the Democrats in voting in favor.

A similar proposal by GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) was defeated 41-59. Nelson was the lone Democrat to support that amendment.

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