Senate vote on Medicaid, education funds delayed

The Senate tabled a jobs measure Monday because Democrats underestimated the package’s cost.

Democrats had scheduled a vote to end debate on their proposal to send $10 billion in funding to states and local governments to prevent public teacher layoffs. The package contains another $16.1 billion to help states with Medicaid obligations.

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Democrats thought they had fully offset the package’s cost by closing foreign tax credit loopholes, reducing future food stamp benefits, changing a Medicaid drug formula and cutting more than $8 billion in spending.

But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill and found that it wasn’t fully paid for, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday.

“Certain spending cuts did not save the [money] that we needed,” Reid said.

Senate Democrats’ proposal included budget numbers that were part of a CBO score of a previous House measure, but those costs had since changed, Reid said.

Democrats had hoped to attach the package as an amendment to a federal aviation bill.

It was unclear Monday whether the fiscal aid measure had the necessary 60 votes to move forward, as Republican leaders have criticized the bill as a tax increase and unnecessary spending.

Reid said the Senate would hold a procedural vote on Wednesday on a new amendment that had “technical corrections” and was fully paid for.

The scoring snafu would also delay a scheduled unanimous consent request to fund a legal settlement with black farmers until later in the week, a Senate leadership aide said.

The federal government owes a $1.2 billion legal settlement to black farmers who were the victims of discrimination by the Department of Agriculture.

Democrats also plan to request unanimous consent of the Senate to fund a $3.4 billion settlement with Native Americans, who say the Interior Department mismanaged Indian trust funds.

Reid promised John Boyd Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association, last week that he would attempt to pass a standalone measure funding the settlements.