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General News    H2'ed 4/17/11

US House of Representatives votes to abolish Medicare

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The House Democrats stepped in to assure passage of the bill. According to press accounts, the Democratic leadership in the House held back the votes of some 75 Democrats, waiting to see how many votes would be needed to approve the bill. At one point, the vote tally stood at 211 for the bill and 140 against, with 66 Democrats and only 16 Republicans not yet voting. The final tally showed passage by 260 to 167.

The New York Times reported back-channel contacts between leaders of the two parties to finalize the parliamentary maneuver: "Realizing that the majority was going to need Democratic votes to pass the measure and avoid a [federal government] shutdown, aides said that Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 Republican, reached out to Mr. Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat, for help on Thursday. Democrats initially did not have enough firm supporters of the measure, one official said, prompting Mr. Hoyer and his allies to reach out to lawmakers and round up what ultimately amounted to 81 Democratic votes, enough to provide a comfortable margin."

In the event, 22 of these 81 Democrats were allowed by the leadership to vote against the budget so they could posture in front of their constituents as opponents of the cuts. The remaining 59 Democrats voted for the budget, exactly offsetting the 59 Republicans who voted against the bill proposed by their own leadership. Without the Democratic votes, the deal would have collapsed.

No such horse-trading was required in the Senate, where the record cuts in domestic social spending had overwhelming bipartisan support. The budget passed by the House was approved by the Senate 81-19, with most of the opposition coming from the right wing of the Republican Party, including figures like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim DeMint of South Carolina who wanted even greater cuts.

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Patrick Martin writes for the World Socialist Website (wsws.org), a forum for socialist ideas & analysis & published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).
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