Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWeek ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny Trump could be the most significant president of our time Cruz: I'd rather have Trump talk to Taiwan than Cuba or Iran MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday said he will vote against the $200 billion Medicare “doc fix” bill that is hitting the Senate floor, becoming the first 2016 candidate to oppose the legislation.
The senator said he opposes the House-passed Medicare reform package because it “institutionalizes and expands ObamaCare policies” while adding billions to the deficit.
“Any deal should be fully paid for and include significant and structural reforms to Medicare,” Cruz wrote in a statement, released just a few hours before the Senate is expected to take up the legislation.
The legislation would repeal a flawed doctor payment formula known as the “sustainable growth rate,” which lawmakers of both parties have failed to resolve for nearly two decades.
This year’s bill would pay for about a third of the bill’s total cost over 10 years, which Cruz and other fiscal conservatives have blasted as contrary to their party’s goal of balancing the budget.
Several fiscal conservatives, including Sens. Jeff SessionsJeff Sessions#NeverTrump can love him or hate him, Trump always wins Republicans want to grease tracks for Trump Trump’s White House is a step backward in racial progress MORE (R-Ala.), Mike LeeMike LeeWill Trump back women’s museum? Overnight Cybersecurity: Lawmakers pushing for vote to delay warrant rule changes Coons to call for voice vote to halt changes to hacking rule MORE (R-Utah) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) have also raised concerns about the price tag of the bill, though none except Cruz have publicly declared they will vote against it.
Lee plans to propose an amendment that would require Congress to find offsets for the bill’s costs using “Pay As You Go” budget rules.
Sessions, who slammed the bill on the Senate floor on Monday evening, said later that he has not yet decided whether to vote against the bill if Lee's amendment is not included.
"I haven't decided," Sessions told reporters Monday evening. But he added: "Republicans ought not to move legislation adding this much to the debt before we even get a budget signed."
The Senate has one day to approve the Medicare reform package before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid hits doctors with the planned 21 percent cuts in reimbursement rates.
The legislation has been praised by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCommunities struggling with decline of coal can’t wait any longer on RECLAIM Act Juan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama Republicans want to grease tracks for Trump MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbying World 'Ready for Michelle' PACs urge 2020 run News Flash: Trump was never going to lock Clinton up MORE (R-Ohio), who negotiated the deal with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
President Obama has already promised to sign the bill.
McConnell has not yet announced the schedule for a vote, though he said from the Senate floor on Tuesday morning that he hopes it will be “soon.”
Acknowledging that the legislation is not perfect, McConnell added, “I do think the bill deserves a vote, and it is my hope that the Senate will soon take one.”
— Peter Sullivan contributed