Raines: Senate Blowing Deal

The Senate budget reconciliation bill fails to live up to the bipartisan budget agreement "in some key areas," Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin Raines said in a letter to Senate leaders late Monday.

While the letter does not address the House budget reconciliation bill, it does make it clear the administration dislikes the House bill even more.

Discussing the Senate bill, Raines wrote, "The bipartisan budget agreement is good for America, its people and its future and we are fully committed to working with Congress to see all of its provisions enacted into law by the August recess" and that there are a large number of Senate provisions the administration brands as "contrary to the bipartisan budget agreement."

The Senate provision to provide Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid for new legal immigrants does not go far enough, Raines said, citing President Clinton's comments that he could not sign legislation that does not provide sufficient protections.

Raines said the Senate bill would protect about 55,000 fewer immigrants than called for in the budget deal. In addition, the Senate bill does not include budget agreement provisions to ease the impact of increased Medicare premiums on low-income people or to restore Medicaid eligibility to certain children, the administration contended. The Senate bill also does not reflect the budget deal's home health reallocation plan, Raines said. Also, Raines said the administration does not like the spectrum auction language in the Senate bill, adding it would not raise the required $26.3 billion.

Administration officials raised "significant concerns" about provisions included in the Senate bill but not addressed in the budget deal.

The administration still does not like the medical savings account provision, but said it is preferable to the House plan. Raines said home health co-payments and an increase in the Medicare eligibility age are not necessary to balance the budget, adding that establishing an income-related deductible for Medicare Part B is outside the budget deal.

On Tuesday, The Senate rejected, 60-40, a Democratic amendment to eliminate the $5 payment Medicare recipients would have to make for each home visit under the Senate bill. The Senate language on children's health is preferable to the House plan, but the administration is concerned about the benefits definition and the lack of low- income protections, Raines said.

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