Extenders defeat leaves state Medicaid help in limbo

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 CollinsWarren: Entire country must speak up on GOP healthcare bill Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment Kim Kardashian to followers: Tell your senators to vote against ObamaCare repeal 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 RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers 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 HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream 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: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding Senators urge quotas on Canadian lumber, consultations with Congress Pressure on Trump grows as Kushner is questioned 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 ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (D-Nev.) on Thursday said could be brought up before the weekend.

Asked about that possibility, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max BaucusMax BaucusOPINION | On Trump-Russia probe, don’t underestimate Sen. Chuck Grassley Lawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda MORE (D-Mont.) said: "We'll decide later."