By Julian Pecquet - 06/25/10 01:00 PM EDT
Democrats' failure Thursday evening to advance tax extenders legislation leaves the future of billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds in doubt.
The money would help states pay for their Medicaid expenses for the first two quarters of 2011, preventing deep cuts to services that would otherwise be needed to balance their budgets.
The Senate could yet attempt to tack the provision onto another bill, but it's not clear lawmakers will have time to act before the July — or even August — recess. Another question: Now that Senate Democrats have acquiesced to a scaled-down Medicaid provision to woo centrist Republicans such as Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSwing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Maine), will they be able to go back to the full 6.2 percent increase in federal payments that was originally on the table?
Lawmakers expressed a mix of opinions and emotions after the 57-41 vote.
Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.), one of Congress' staunchest Medicaid advocates, said he was ready to go home and "sob."
"I don't think it passes," he said of the Medicaid provision's future chances. "So it's just a sad, devastating thing for so many states."
Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa), by contrast, said "hope springs eternal."
"I think it's overdue right now," Harkin said. "The sooner the better."
Other Democrats offered differing views on what shape the provision should take in the future.
Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas US wins aerospace subsidies trade case over the EU Wells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel MORE (D-Ore.) expressed his continued support for extending through June the 6.2 percent increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) established in last year's recovery act.
"It'll be tough," he said, "but we'll keep trying."
The original FMAP provision would have cost about $24 billion. A subsequent version of the tax extenders bill negotiated with centrist Republicans reduced it to a phased-down FMAP increase of 5.2 percent for the first quarter of 2011 and 3.2 percent for the second quarter. The version defeated Thursday had increases of 3.2 percent and 1.2 percent (cost: $16.1 billion).
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — the only Democrat to vote against the tax extenders passage Thursday — said the bigger priority for him was that the provision be paid for. Senate Republicans have said the same thing.
Lawmakers have discussed tacking pieces of the extenders bill — including FMAP — onto other bills. One possibility: the jobs bills that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBlack Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP Report: Intelligence officials probing Trump adviser's ties to Russia White House preps agencies for possible shutdown MORE (D-Nev.) on Thursday said could be brought up before the weekend.
Asked about that possibility, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max BaucusMax BaucusChina moves to lift ban on US beef Overnight Healthcare: Zika fight stalls government funding talks | Census finds big drop in uninsured | Mental health bill faces wait Glover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft MORE (D-Mont.) said: "We'll decide later."