What: All Issues : Health Care : Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs : S 3. (Overhauling Medicare's prescription drug benefit) Motion to close debate on the bill/On the cloture motion
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S 3. (Overhauling Medicare's prescription drug benefit) Motion to close debate on the bill/On the cloture motion
senate Roll Call 132     Apr 18, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:

This vote occurred on a measure that is one of the keystones of the Democratic agenda -- overhauling the Medicare prescription drug benefit pushed through by Republicans in 2003. Specifically, the Democratic bill would empower the government to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices -- something not possible under current law. The White House threatened to veto the measure.

Democrats have argued since the inception of the Medicare drug benefit that the prices of drugs covered by Medicare could be significantly lowered if the government was able to negotiate prices with providers, as it does for veterans.

Republicans have countered that the Democratic proposals put forth so far would not actually save any money. They argue that this is because while the bills would repeal the prohibition against allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare, they would not include policy giving the government real negotiating leverage, such as allowing Medicare to construct a formulary, which it is currently prohibited from doing. A formulary is a list of drugs that will be covered by any certain insurance plan. A formulary would give Medicare the leverage to force a drug company to reduce drug prices if that company wants its drugs to be included in the covered list.

This particular vote was an attempt to force the Senate to move to a subsequent vote on passing the measure. Urged on by the White House, Republicans in the Senate had blocked the bill from even being brought to the Senate floor for debate. So the Democratic leadership attempted to force the issue by making a motion to bring debate on the bill to a close (known as a "cloture motion" in the Senate). If the Senate votes to "invoke cloture" -- or bring debate on a bill to a close -- then the leadership may call a vote on final passage soon after.

When the cloture vote was called, 55 voted yes, and 42 voted no. Though more voted yes than no, a three-fifths majority of the Senate (60 votes) is needed to invoke cloture and bring debate to a close. Because only 55 voted yes, the motion failed. The vast majority of Democrats voted for the motion, except for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (who likely voted no to ensure that he could call for a revote if he so chose. Congressional rules stipulate that a vote can only be taken again on the same issue if it is called by someone who previously voted in opposition). Most Republicans voted against the motion, though six sided with Democrats. Thus, the motion failed and a vote on final passage was never ordered. Following the vote, Reid said that overhauling Medicare's prescription drug benefit was likely dead for the rest of 2007.

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