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From CQ Newsroom: Grassley Accuses White House of Blocking Katrina Medicaid Legislation

OCTOBER 6, 2005 -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, accused the White House Thursday of working behind the scenes to scuttle legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The legislation (S 1716), co-authored by Grassley and the finance panel's ranking Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, would allow low-income victims of Hurricane Katrina to bypass some of the usual eligibility requirements and join the Medicaid rolls.

A band of fiscal conservatives have blocked the bill on the Senate floor, and Grassley's attempt to win broader support by scaling back the bill has not been successful.

At a hearing Thursday, at which Treasury Secretary John W. Snow was testifying on the administration's tax incentive proposals for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, Grassley argued that Senate opposition to the Medicaid bill could be overcome if the White House backed off from its stance.

"Unfortunately, the White House is working against me behind the scenes, and I resent that considering how much I've delivered for the White House" in recent years, Grassley said.

Baucus agreed, saying that the administration has moved much more slowly to help victims of Hurricane Katrina than it did in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It is slow-walking, it is opposing, it is obfuscating, it is delaying," Baucus said. "What is the difference between New York and the Gulf Coast?"

Snow said he would bring up the issue with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt.

Moderate Republicans on the Finance Committee, who have balked at cutting Medicaid by $10 billion or more through the budget reconciliation process, are expected to meet Thursday with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to try to find savings in the program. Frist met Wednesday with GOP members on the panel behind closed doors, though no deal was reached.

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