Morning Action: Landrieu Denies Connection Between Her Senate Race and Proposed Obamacare Fixes

OBAMACARE.  Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), and other moderate Democrats are pushing for Obamacare fixes (sub. req’d):

A day after Senate Democratic leaders played down possible election year blowback from Obamacare, a group of six moderate Democrats, including two with tough reelection races, unveiled a package of proposals for improving the law.

Senior Senate Republicans aides argued that the timing belies that Democrats are worried that the troubled roll out of the health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, could hurt them in the November election.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., dismissed the GOP criticism and said she has been committed to improving the law since it became law. She also stressed not to read anything into the timing.

“First of all, don’t try to put those things together because they have nothing to do with each other,” said Landrieu, who is in a tossup race, according to the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings.

“There have been several of us who have said from the beginning, since we voted for the Affordable Care Act, that it could be improved, that it was not perfect,” Landrieu continued. “We have been talking about it for literally a year and a half. We’ve all filed a variety of different bills to improve it. This work that our group has been doing has been going on for months and months and months.”

UKRAINE.  The House could clear a Ukraine aid bill to send to President Obama for his signature (sub. req’d):

The House and the Senate on Thursday passed separate bills responding to Russian aggression, and in order to get something to the president’s desk, today the House could clear the Senate bill. But if it does, most lawmakers won’t be there to see it.

The House meets at 11 a.m. for a pro-forma session — a brief, perfunctory meeting with typically few lawmakers present — and could take that opportunity to clear by unanimous consent the Senate’s measure. Both the House (HR 4278) and the Senate (HR 4152) measures would authorize aid to Ukraine and sanction Russia for its takeover of the Crimean peninsula.

The main differences between the bills are as follows: The Senate bill contains $100 million for security assistance to central and eastern Europe. And the House legislation includes authorization for U.S. international broadcasting to Ukraine and the surrounding region — the Senate OK’d a measure (S 2183) along those lines late Thursday — and for Ukrainian law enforcement. It also calls on the president to examine whether Russia has violated a 1988 arms treaty.

BUDGET.  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) N/A% will stick with the terms of the budget he negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) 7% on defense and domestic spending (sub. req’d):

Cantor said the Budget Committee will mark up the plan next week and the House will vote on it during the week that begins April 7.

Although the House Budget Committee has not released any details of the resolution that is expected to be marked up by the committee next Wednesday, both lawmakers and leadership aides have confirmed Ryan, R-Wis., will not propose adjusting the caps on defense and non-defense in the deal.

The two-year Ryan-Murray deal (PL 113-67), which Congress passed in December, caps base discretionary spending at close to $1.014 trillion in fiscal 2015. It caps defense at $521 billion and nondefense at $492 billion — an increase over post-sequester levels in both categories.

HOUSING.  Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) 21% has proposed a liberal alternative to the other housing finance reform bills that have been offered in the House and Senate (sub. req’d):

California Rep. Maxine Waters unveiled new legislation Thursday to overhaul the housing finance system, setting a liberal marker in the ongoing congressional efforts to rebuild a central pillar of the economy.

The plan by the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee reflects priorities that are in other legislative measures by winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants whose implicit government guarantee became explicit during the 2008 crisis.

But unlike previous proposals in the House and Senate, Waters’ legislation would establish a lender-owned cooperative that would act as the single issuer of government-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities, effectively creating a new utility to deliver mortgage credit.

DOC FIX.  The House passed a temporary “doc-fix” bill Thursday by voice vote (sub. req’d):

The House on Thursday passed a one-year “doc fix” that would avert a 24 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians, after what was an uncertain fate in the chamber during the preceding hours.

The bill (HR 4302) would avert for one year deep cuts in Medicare payments to physicians that would be triggered under the current sustainable growth rate formula after the current “patch” (PL 113-67) expires March 31.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the one-year extension on Monday.

The bill’s passage by voice vote in the House on Thursday came suddenly after House leaders had delayed a scheduled roll call vote earlier in the day. Members and staff were seen huddling on and off the floor Thursday as questions continued to swirl whether the measure had the needed two-thirds vote majority requirement for passage under suspension of the rules.


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