Cruz slams 'doc fix' as expanding ObamaCare

Cruz slams 'doc fix' as expanding ObamaCare
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Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump's America: Businessmen in, bureaucrats out When Trump says 'Make America Great Again,' he means it Booker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals 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.

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Cruz's move could ramp up the pressure on the other two presidential candidates in the upper chamber, Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP, Dems hear different things from Trump Senate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Tillerson met with top State official: report MORE (R-Fla.) and Rand PaulRand PaulDems blast Trump plans for deep spending cuts Trump team prepares dramatic cuts Paul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy MORE (R-Ky.), who have not yet said how they will vote on the bill.

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 SessionsFranken emerges as liberal force in hearings Five worries for tech under Trump The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch MORE (R-Ala.), Mike LeeMike LeeBooker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals Paul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy Right renews push for term limits as Trump takes power 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 McConnellTrump to meet with congressional leaders Monday: report Meet Trump's secret weapon on infrastructure Senate confirms first nominees of Trump era MORE (R-Ky.) and  Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLast Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions An anti-government ideologue like Mulvaney shouldn't run OMB 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