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Morning Action: Another Obamacare Delay by ‘Most Transparent Administration in History’

OBAMACARE.  Late last night, the Obama administration announced it would ignore yet another key deadline in the implementation of Obamacare.  Heritage Action released the following statement from chief executive officer Michael A. Needham:

Nothing says ‘most transparent administration in history’ like a major announcement at 9pm. Last night’s announcement is the latest example of President Obama treating his signature legislation not as the settled law of the land, but rather nothing more than an experiment in need of constant tinkering. It is time for the President and his fellow Democrats to acknowledge what Americans have long understood: Obamacare is unworkable, unaffordable and unfair.  The sooner they come to this realization the sooner Americans can get the type of health care reform they deserve.

The Heritage Foundation reminds us of the many assertions made by the Obama Administration that March 31 would absolutely be the enrollment deadline this time and there would be no delay.

“We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period. In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.” — Health and Human Services (HHS) official Julie Bataille, March 11

“Once that 2014 open enrollment period has been set, they are set permanently.” – HHS official Michael Hash, March 11

“March 31st is the deadline for enrollment. You’ve heard us make that clear.” – Press Secretary Jay Carney, March 21

“There is no delay beyond March 31.” – HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, March 12

UKRAINE.  The Senate is poised to vote Thursday on the Ukraine aid bill and have abandoned the effort to tie unrelated International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms to the bill (sub. req’d):

Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13%, received unanimous consent to withdraw the Senate bill on the floor (S 2124) and call up a House-passed bill (HR 4152) that would only deal with loan guarantees to Ukraine.

After two hours of debate Thursday, the Senate is set to vote on a substitute amendment sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) 7%, with ranking Republican Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) 52%, that omits IMF language but otherwise resembles the measure approved 14-3 by the Senate Foreign Relations panel on March 12. A vote on final passage would follow.

Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) 49%, initially objected, asking for a modified agreement that would allow for votes on GOP amendments, including an amendment by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) 57%, that would have sped up liquefied natural gas exports to Ukraine, and on his own amendment to provide additional military assistance to Ukraine.

Reid, who objected to the modification, said earlier Tuesday that a bill with IMF provisions was “headed to nowhere.” The decision to abandon the IMF language opened a path for legislation to advance.

Mike Needham released the following statement after Sen. Reid removed the IMF “reforms”:

After 19 days of inaction, Harry Reid finally came to his senses.  Not only did these so-called reforms have nothing to do with Ukraine, but they would have increased Russia’s power at the IMF just as the U.S. was seeking to punish the country.  By refusing to give into Reid’s bullying tactics, conservatives in the House and Senate were able to prevent yet another foreign policy mistake by the Obama administration.

 UI. House Republicans say that do not feel intense political pressure to extend unemployment insurance (sub. req’d):

House Republicans say they feel little political pressure to pass a bipartisan unemployment benefits extension expected to pass the Senate in the coming days, bolstering Speaker John A. Boehner’s hand as he holds out for concessions from Democrats and the White House.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) 56%, who helped negotiate the bipartisan Senate agreement, said once the his chamber clears the bill, he plans to reach out to House Republican leaders.

“I knew that [House Republicans] would have some issues with it,” Heller said. “It sounds like they want to get something done, in general terms. … Whether it looks like what the Senate passes or not, that is for them to decide.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he plans to bring up the bipartisan benefits extension bill soon, although a final vote could slip into next week.

House Democrats say they will keep pushing once the Senate passes the bill, a Democratic aide said. They plan to work with outside groups to target vulnerable Republican House members in hopes that they will convince Boehner to take up the bill, if only for their political benefit.

DOC FIX. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) 10% is pushing for his measure to institute a new payment system for Medicare (sub. req’d):

“We’re certainly going to do everything we can. We’ve got a few more days,” noted Wyden, D-Ore., on Tuesday.

The current payment patch (PL 113-67), known as a “doc fix,” expires March 31, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has previously used some administrative leeway to hold claims until a new patch is put in place. Because of that ability, Wyden said, “The reality is the effective deadline is next week.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that the Senate needs to work on the replacement bill (S 2110) or a short-term patch this week. He said he preferred moving Wyden’s bill, which would replace Medicare’s sustainable growth rate formula with new payment systems, to a short-term patch, but said the Senate needs to act “very soon.”

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