House approves rule on tax extenders

In a 221-199 vote, the House agreed to advance the debate on the so-called tax extender package. The 29 Democrats voting against the rule argued it either was too expensive or didn't go far enough in addressing Medicare reimbursements to doctors. 

Democrats voting against the rule included a number of lawmakers facing challenging reelection prospects this fall, including Reps. Travis Childres (Miss.), Steve Driehaus (Ohio), Baron Hill (Ind.), Frank Kratovil (Md.) and Tom Perriello (Va.).

Blue Dogs Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) also voted against the rule.

Herseth Sandlin on Thursday said the bill should not pass the House until its spending measures were better examined. 

"I feel these provisions want more scrutiny than they received versus just putting them together in a broad package — no changes, no questions asked — and asking us to vote for them," she told reporters.

Those supporting the rule argued it was better to leave Washington for the recess by approving legislaiton to extend unemployment benefits and ensure a scheduled cut in the payments that doctors receive under Medicare is frozen.

"If I were going home, saying to my docs, 'up yours' — I just can't imagine doing that," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who despite misgivings about the bill voted to move it toward final consideration.

The Senate adjourned on Thursday without passing an unemployment extension or the "doc fix," and was hit with criticism from the American Medical Association.

The tax extenders package will be considered in two pieces later on Friday. 

The first, a $92.5 billion bill, includes $39.5 billion for an extension of unemployment benefits through November. That portion of the bill is not offset with other spending cuts or tax increases. The other portion, which is paid for with tax increases, totals $53 billion and includes tax extender provisions, summer jobs and the Pigford case settlement for black farmers.

The second bill is for $23 billion and extends for 19 months the "doc fix," a term referring to delaying a cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors.

Final votes on the legislation are expected later Friday.