Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both joined the majority in a 92-8 vote in the Senate last night to pass H.R. 2, legislation to permanently take care of the “doc fix” Congress has annually been passing on Medicare reimbursement rates, and also provide a two-year extension to the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides millions in payments to rural, timber-dependent Idaho counties for roads and schools. It’s the same bill that earlier overwhelmingly passed the House, but kicked off an open war of words between Idaho 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson, who proudly supported the bill and joined the majority, and Idaho 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, who voted “no” and blasted Simpson not only for supporting the bill, but also for everything from his integrity to his personal habits.
Labrador maintained he supported the SRS extension and it would have passed as a stand-alone bill, but opposed the “doc fix” legislation as too costly.
Here’s what Crapo and Risch said about the bill in a joint statement:
“For decades, Congress has struggled over two competing issues that are part of this legislation: repealing the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, and meaningfully and fully addressing our national debt. The bill contains needed entitlement reforms and protections of our rural communities. Conservatives have long lobbied for this much-needed entitlement reform. But there is legitimate concern that the bill is not fully offset.
“One of our overriding concerns has been that the bill was not fully paid for. In the ensuing weeks since the House passed the legislation, commitments have been made regarding reductions in the upcoming Senate-House budget conference to reduce the budgeted spending to account for the need to fully offset this bill. Although this does not adopt the necessary offsets immediately, it does establish in our federal budget the recognition that our work on this legislation is not done. We must assure that this legislation does not add to our mounting national debt.
“This bill contained needed adjustments and reforms to our Medicare system and protections for our rural communities in states with high federal property ownership. We voted in favor of this bill tonight and give our commitment to work until the necessary spending offsets to be incorporated into our federal budget are realized so that Congress follows through on both: entitlement reform and federal spending reduction.”
You can read their full news release here.