Health care at the center of final social spending talks
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that negotiators still haven’t reached agreement on language to expand Medicare benefits and lower the price of prescription drugs, two major pieces of their agenda, but insisted “a final deal is within reach.”
Schumer signaled to reporters that Democrats are much closer to agreement on climate provisions, which he promised would make a “robust” contribution to addressing global warming.
But he acknowledged that two of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) top priorities — expanding Medicare and cutting the cost of prescription drugs — remain unresolved.
The other holdups are a disagreement over creating a Medicaid-type program to expand health care coverage in states that opted out of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the length of a national paid family leave program and a proposal to empower the IRS to broadly review banking activity to find unreported tax obligations.
“I believe that we will get this done and we will get it done soon,” Schumer said after a caucus meeting. “No one ever said that passing transformational legislation like this would be easy, but we are on track to get it done.
“There is universal consensus in our caucus that we have to come to agreement despite the differences in views on many issues,” he added. “I believe a final deal is within reach.”
RELATED: SANDERS DRAWS HIS RED LINES
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Tuesday that a deal on President Biden’s spending bill must expand Medicare and include a plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
“Bottom line is that any reconciliation bill must include serious negotiations on the part of Medicare with the pharmaceutical industry, lower the cost of prescription drugs. That’s what the American people want,” Sanders said.
He added that a “serious reconciliation bill must include expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses.”
Sanders’s decision to draw red lines, while speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill, underscores the headache facing Democratic leadership as they try to reach a deal that can unify their various factions.
On the other side: Joe Manchin. The West Virginia Democrat, speaking to reporters on Monday, reiterated he doesn’t support expanding Medicare amid concerns about the program’s solvency.
“My big concern right now is the 2026 deadline [for] Medicare insolvency and if no one’s concerned about that, I’ve got people — that’s a lifeline. Medicare and Social Security is a lifeline for people back in West Virginia, most people around the country,” Manchin warned.