Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Senate Approves Budget Deal To Avert Default Risk, Sends Measure To Obama

In the wee hours of Friday morning, the Senate approved the bill 64 to 35.

The New York Times: Senate Passes Budget Bill And Sends It To Obama
The Senate approved a crucial bipartisan budget agreement early on Friday that would avert a government default and stands to end nearly five years of pitched battles between congressional Republicans and the Obama administration over fiscal policy. The measure, which was approved 64 to 35, now goes to the White House, where President Obama is ready to sign it. (Herszenhorn, 10/30)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Senate Passes Budget Bill, Averting Risk Of Default
Friday’s early morning vote of 64-35 will enact a sweeping deal that came together only days before. Congressional leaders reached an agreement with the White House late Monday increasing spending by $80 billion through September 2017 and increasing the federal government’s borrowing limit until mid-March 2017. ... The latest agreement split Republicans, dividing those who wanted to see higher defense spending from those who said the bill didn’t extract enough spending reductions in exchange for increasing the debt limit. (son, 10/30)

The Washington Post: Senate Approves Two-Year Bipartisan Budget Agreement
To offset this cost, negotiators tapped a number of sources, including making changes to Medicare and Social Security, auctioning off government-controlled wireless spectrum, selling crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and tightening tax rules for business partnerships. ... The agreement also will prevent a potential 20 percent across-the-board cut to Social Security Disability Insurance benefits scheduled to take place next year, by transferring resources from the main Social Security fund and making changes to the program. The cost-saving revisions include allowing some recipients who can still work to receive partial payments while earning outside income, and expanding a program requiring a second medical expert to weigh in on whether an applicant is legitimately disabled. (Snell, 10/30)

USA Today: Senate Approves Two-Year Budget Deal That Prevents Default On Debt
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had a harder time convincing Republican senators to support the bill. Many conservatives objected to lifting the budget caps and raising the debt limit. ... By pushing the deal quickly through the House, outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, eased pressure on his successor, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Ryan, who was sworn in as the new speaker on Thursday, will not have to begin his tenure by facing an imminent fiscal crisis. (Kelly, 10/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Congressional Moves May Help Business
A burst of legislative activity in Congress this week, culminating in a two-year budget deal, could lift the cloud of uncertainty and modestly boost the economy by rolling back fiscal austerity. ... Lawmakers also included two important changes that will avert potential payment spikes and benefit cuts for seniors and the disabled. The budget agreement takes steps that will block a 52% jump in Medicare premiums for about 30% of beneficiaries next year. Premiums will now increase by 15% for those beneficiaries. AARP, a lobby for older Americans, praised lawmakers for heading off the premium increase. (Timiraos, 10/29)

NBC News: Senate Approves Two-Year Budget Deal, Sends Bill To Obama
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cancelled campaign events and returned to Washington to speak out against the deal, telling NBC News as he left that he had returned "because this budget deal is a disaster, it's Republican leadership joining with Democrats to fund all of President Obama's big government priorities." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also made a appearance on the Senate floor, voting against the budget measure but not giving a speech. Rubio had not voted since October 20, and before today had missed 18 of 19 votes the Senate had taken in the month of October. (Thorp and Duchon, 10/30)

CBS News: Senate Passes Ambitious Budget Deal, Sends It To Obama
While the deal lifts spending levels, it doesn't completely eliminate the risk of government shutdowns in the future. Congress must pass a new spending package, based on the budget deal's guidelines, by Dec. 11. If controversial policy provisions are inserted into that spending package, they could easily cause problems and increase the threat of a shutdown. (Shabad, 10/30)

7. Paul Ryan Takes The Speaker's Gavel -- But Will He Be Able To Advance His Policy Agenda?

News outlets analyze how the new speaker, who previously chaired the House Budget and Ways and Means committees, might use this position to advance policies that he has promoted in the past, including overhauling Medicare and changing the federal health law.

The New York Times: As Speaker, Paul Ryan May Need To Pare Lofty Goals
Paul D. Ryan, a son and grandson of Midwestern lawyers, ascended rapidly in American politics as a man with big plans: to overhaul the tax code, slash federal spending and rewrite the social contracts for Medicare and Social Security. Mr. Ryan, 45, who was elected in a celebratory Capitol Hill pageant on Thursday as the 54th speaker of the House, the youngest to grip the gavel since the late 1860s, now confronts a fundamental question: Will his new post provide a platform to pursue his bold visions for a renewed America, or will those big ideas weigh him down in an era defined by confrontation and small-bore compromises? (Herszenhorn and Huetteman, 10/29)

The Wall Street Journal: House Elects Paul Ryan As New Speaker
Mr. Ryan’s plan to listen to ideas from the rank and file doesn’t mean he takes the gavel without his own policy views, developed through a career that began with odd jobs like mowing lawns and waiting tables and led to chairmanships of two powerful House committees. The most ambitious plans in Mr. Ryan’s idea chest are based on a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps philosophy that inflames Democrats as much as it energizes Republicans. In closed-door meetings with House Republicans, Mr. Ryan has said he wants to overhaul the tax code, replace President Barack Obama’s health law, and rewrite federal poverty programs—and in the process draw a contrast with Democrats heading into the 2016 presidential election. (Hughes, 10/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Newly Elected House Speaker Paul Ryan Takes Gavel With Focus On Overhauling Taxes
His budget plan, which came to be known as the Ryan budget, called for deep cuts in spending and an overhaul of Medicare. As a head of the tax panel, Mr. Ryan had slated 2016 as the year to roll out his big tax ideas. It remains to be seen if he can use the speaker’s gavel to implement his ideas. His predecessor, Ohio Republican John Boehner, had aimed high in 2011 when he came close to reaching a broad budget deal with President Barack Obama, only to end his tenure with incremental changes that left big fiscal fights unsettled. (McKinnon and Hughes, 10/29)

The Associated Press: Obama And Ryan: Political Foils, Occasional Policy Partners
Still, there’s no doubt that Ryan was the White House’s favored choice for speaker after John Boehner resigned and No. 2 Republican Kevin McCarthy withdrew from the race to succeed him. Aides say the president views Ryan as a policy wonk driven more by legislative results than appeasing GOP hardliners. ... Despite these areas of common interest, the most notable exchanges between Obama and Ryan have come when they’ve been at odds. During a televised health care summit in 2010, Ryan derided the president’s health care legislation as rife with “gimmicks and smoke and mirrors” techniques to shade the real cost. His detail-rich, six-minute commentary was praised by Republicans as among the most effective arguments against the “Obamacare” bill. (Pace, 10/29)

8. With Committee Hearing, Senators Focus Attention On Mental Health

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard expert testimony regarding pending legislation to reform the nation's mental health system, as well as a bottom-line message that much more must be done in order to apply research gains to treatment.

The Washington Post: Mental Health In The Spotlight Thursday On Capitol Hill
The federal government's top mental health researcher told lawmakers Thursday that the country needs to do much more to apply research to improve treatments, as a Senate committee heard testimony to address comprehensive mental health legislation. Speaking on his second-to-last day in his job as director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel said his 13-year tenure had convinced him of two “abiding truths.” (Sun, 10/29)