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GOP Senators Criticize a Lost Weekend in Health Care Debate

Senate Republicans on Saturday took another swipe at the Democratic health care reform package, while complaining about the lack of amendment votes during this weekend’s session.At a news conference after a Saturday morning vote to end debate on the $446.8 billion omnibus spending bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lashed out at Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) health care legislation, citing a new government report and fresh public polling as evidence that it would be ineffective and is unpopular.The Republicans, citing analysis from the actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, charged that the Democrats’ health care bill would raise costs over the long term.Republicans also argued that voting on amendments to the $848 billion health care package should take precedence over the consideration of appropriations bills. No such action was expected in the Senate on Saturday, although Members were using the “morning business— period to debate health care.“This weekend we’re here, but we’re not voting on health care. We’re not having amendments to make this bill better. We’re here talking about budget issues,— Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said. “We’re supposed to be talking about the most important issue facing the American people. They can’t even find our colleagues on the other side — the Democrats — to go down and talk about this bill. Republicans are there, chomping at the bit, to talk about this bill.—LeMieux and GOP Sens. Judd Gregg (N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) joined McConnell at the Saturday morning news conference.Democrats dismissed the Republicans’ charges as disingenuous, noting that McConnell objected Thursday when Reid asked for unanimous consent to vote on four health care amendments, including at least one measure offered by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).“They didn’t need to hold a press conference on Saturday to tell the American people that they are opposed to health care reform. That has been evident for awhile now,— said Jim Manley, Reid’s chief spokesman.The Senate is expected to vote Sunday afternoon on final passage of the omnibus. No health care amendments are scheduled for a vote, partly because Democrats are awaiting a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office on a proposal that they hope will break an intraparty logjam over the public insurance option.

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