There was an effort to block major changes to safety net programs in the U.S. Congress Monday, but it fell short of the necessary votes.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and other Senate Democrats introduced an amendment to protect Medicare and Medicaid from the budget reconciliation process.
“For the past 50 years, seniors and working families have enjoyed the peace of mind of knowing that Medicare and Medicaid will be there for them,” Hirono said in a press release. “This budget resolution would dismantle these critical programs and our social safety net, resulting in too many families losing their health insurance. I will do everything in my power to protect these benefits for families in Hawaii and across the country.”
Co-sponsors of the Hirono-Donnelly amendment included Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) as well as independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Republicans have a 52-48 majority. The vote on the amendment was 49 yays, 47 nays and four others not voting, with 60 votes needed for passage.
Two Republicans actually voted in favor of the amendment, including Susan Collins of Maine. Hawaii’s other Democratic senator, Brian Schatz, also voted in favor.
The amendment, if passed, would give rise to a point of order if Senate Republicans tried to use reconciliation – a process that just requires a simple majority vote in the Senate – to privatize Medicare.
Reconciliation was once considered a key way Republicans might make changes to Medicare. Immediately after Trump was elected, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) told reporters that he would like to use budget reconciliation to privatize Medicare. Many Republican senators eventually dismissed the idea saying that Congress had its hands full repealing Obamacare.
“Nearly one in three American families depend on Medicare and Medicaid for their health care needs,” according to Hirono’s office.
After the vote, her office said the senator would continue to fight for the programs.