The measure ultimately passed by a margin of 384-38.
The legislation ultimately passed by a margin of 384-38.
The same language passed easily in the Senate on March 25, by a 90-2 vote. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The legislation was necessary because the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — enacted without a single Republican vote — relied on deficit spending.
Under the 2010 Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act, that relief package automatically triggered cuts to Medicare, farm subsidies, and other programs. According to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, this would have resulted in $36 billion in Medicare reductions and tens of billions in cuts to other things.
Tuesday's legislation will prevent those automatic Medicare cuts for this year, but extend the deficit reduction provisions by an extra year — leaving them in place until the 2031 budget.
When the bill arrived in the Senate, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Susan Collins of Maine successfully substituted their narrower proposal to exempt only the Medicare cuts scheduled for this year. It received wide bipartisan support.
But because the language changed, the House had to vote to accept that language — a process delayed by the chamber's April recess.
House Republicans used the specter of automatic cuts to Medicare as a major reason to oppose the $1.9 trillion relief package.
"The American people deserve better than Biden and Pelosi's political payoff scheme," Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted on March 11. "It causes $36 billion in cuts to Medicare."
But rather than fix it, the GOP lawmakers on Tuesday voted to let the cuts happen.
Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), who backed the bill, called the legislation a "wiser course of action than that which my House Democrat colleagues pursued just a few weeks ago."
Yarmuth also backed the compromise on Tuesday and said he was committed to backing a second fix to prevent future cuts before the end of this Congress.
No member spoke in opposition prior to the vote, but Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said in a statement that he voted to allow the cuts because the bill "fails to address the financial needs of our country now, in real time [... and] allows Medicare to circumvent the rules to add on to an already unbalanced budget."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.