“There really is something fundamentally wrong when, in the richest country in the history of the world, there are millions of seniors who have rotting teeth in their mouth, who are unable to hear what their grandchildren are saying, and study after study suggests that dementia is accelerated because people are isolated from their community because they can’t hear,” he told reporters. That isn’t sitting well with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has made the Medicare benefits a red line and — like every other senator in the 50-member Democratic caucus — holds a decisive vote. “So this to me is not negotiable,” he said. “This is what the American people want.”
“My priority is Medicaid and the coverage gap,” Clyburn said in an interview. For House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a key figure who helped propel Biden into the White House, Medicaid is paramount. About 100,000 residents of his conservative state fall in the gap.
Driving the push is Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., the leader of the 95-member New Democrat Coalition, who has urged party leaders to limit the health care provisions to ACA and Medicaid changes while leaving the expanded Medicare benefits for another day. “I feel very proprietary about the Affordable Care Act,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who shepherded the bill into law in 2010 and embraces it as part of her legacy.
Senior aides say several unknowns will shape the decisions on health care. The first is where the overall spending level ends up. The second is how much the party can find in savings, which depends in large part on whether the bill allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Committees and policy writers are still waiting on guidance from leadership about those questions. ‘I have no sense of what Sinema wants’ Pelosi has said that programs will be scrapped in some cases and that expiration dates will be moved up to fit within the price range in others. Progressives see that as an invitation to fit some version of their policies in the final bill.
The dispute is one of many challenges Democrats face as they seek to shrink the package and unify their slim majorities behind a bill that the party hopes to make its signature achievement of this era — and campaign on in the midterm elections next year. Biden’s falling poll numbers have put him in need of a victory, which Democrats want to secure as early as this month. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said that’s also the position of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which she chairs. Jayapal showed the group’s muscle recently by torpedoing an infrastructure vote in a bid for leverage over centrists on the safety net bill.
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