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Cruz slams 'doc fix' as expanding ObamaCare

Cruz slams 'doc fix' as expanding ObamaCare
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Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz, Cornyn to attend Biden inauguration For platform regulation Congress should use a European cheat sheet Former GOP congressman says he's leaving party: 'This has become a cult' 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 Antonio RubioConfirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? MORE (R-Fla.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Legislatures boost security after insurrection, FBI warnings Former Missouri senator says backing Hawley was 'worst mistake of my life' 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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds Sen. Hawley tramples the 2020 vote in his run to 2024 MORE (R-Ala.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeRepublicans wrestle over removing Trump Lawmakers, leaders offer condolences following the death of Capitol Police officer GOP senators urging Trump officials to not resign after Capitol chaos 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (R-Ky.) and  Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouse conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' Boehner congratulates President-elect Joe Biden 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