WASHINGTON (CN) – Highlighting the disarray among Democrats in establishing a clear health care agenda, a dozen party members joined with Republicans to vote down a bill 53 to 47 on the Senate floor Wednesday that would have averted pay cuts to doctors serving Medicare patients. The failure is a blow to Democrats, who hold 60 Senate seats, and could to pass almost any bill if unified.
The vote is the Senate’s first on health care spending this year.
The bill’s failure underlines the lack of unity among the Democrats in what each seeks from health care reform, a problem that is likely to persist as the legislation is hammered out.
All the Republican senators voted against the bill, which would have set aside $247 billion over the course of 10 years to prevent making cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
No measures to offset the cost were included.
“A bipartisan majority rejected the Democrat Leadership’s attempt to add another quarter trillion dollars to the national credit card without any plan to pay for it,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky said. “Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come in the health care debate ahead.”
Before the bill was voted down, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada said, “This is important that we put this behind us so that Medicare patients and doctors know for the next decade that they’ll have a doctor to go to when they’re sick,” said Reid.
He said that if Medicare cuts the pay of doctors, more doctors will turn away Medicare patients.
The Medicare system is currently designed to cut its payments to doctors each year. Congress has voted to evade these cuts. The bill would have altered Medicare’s design in order to stop these systematic payment cuts.