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From the CQ Newsroom: Grassley Says No—for Now—to Medicare, Medicaid Cuts

MARCH 7, 2006 -- Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley said Tuesday that the Senate budget resolution to be marked up this week would not include the $37 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that President Bush sought in his proposed budget.

"None, at least as far as the Senate's concerned," Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday in response to a question about Medicare and Medicaid savings.

But Grassley kept open the possibility that such cuts could survive via the House budget resolution. "Something would have to come out of conference," Grassley said.

Grassley's comments come as moderate Republicans have questioned moving forward with a significant package of budget cuts without bipartisan support in an election year. Senate Budget Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said Monday that cuts to entitlement programs this year were "unlikely" given election year politics.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Tuesday the budget resolution in the Senate would include a single instruction that would allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bush's budget proposal called for a net $65 billion in savings to entitlement programs over five years.

Meanwhile, President Bush's call for beefed up line-item rescission authority picked up the support of Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Tuesday. Cochran, who met Tuesday morning with Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten to discuss the proposal, endorsed the idea.

"I think the president sees it as a way to put more discipline in the process and I support that," Cochran said.

Cochran said the question should not be whether it affects the power of appropriators. "The question is: Is it a useful tool to control spending? And I think it will be," Cochran said.

Past efforts to grant similar express rescission authority generally have been resisted by appropriators, but Bush's plan has the support of House and Senate GOP leaders as well as some Democrats.

Under Bush's proposal, which he is terming a line-item "veto," Congress would have 10 days to vote on a package of rescissions proposed by the president to spending or tax bills. If Congress did not pass the package, the rescissions would not occur.

Editor's Note: The $37 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid were not part of the Senate committee's final budgetary resolution. In addition, a budgetary point of order against new mandatory spending proposals was approved by the committee. The proposal would be triggered when government revenue other than Medicare taxes and fees subsidize more than 45 percent of the program's cost, a situation that could occur within five years.

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