WASHINGTON — An Upstate House Republican threatened to oppose the GOP health care bill Monday after a Senate parliamentarian’s ruling cast doubt on whether a controversial Medicaid provision, dubbed the “Buffalo Bailout” and "Empire State Kickback" by opponents, would be included in the final bill.
GOP Rep.Tom Reed of Corning, who supported the House health care bill in May, said he would switch his vote on the final legislation if it does not include a measure exempting New York counties from paying Medicaid expenses, effectively shifting them to the state.
The measure, included in legislation to attract the votes of Upstate House Republicans, was among at least a dozen health care bill provisions the Senate parliamentarian said would violate the chamber’s budget reconciliation rules and would require a higher threshold of votes, 60, to remain in the bill. Senate Republicans, who have only a 52-seat majority, are attempting to pass health care legislation under an expedited procedural route requiring only 51 votes for passage.
“I stand firmly with the people of New York and will oppose the present Senate health care bill if the bill does not include the provision to shift the Medicaid burden from the taxpayers and local governments back to the state, where it belongs,” Reed said in a statement. “We cannot waste this opportunity to right this wrong, nor continue to ignore the needs of our hard working neighbors and friends of New York.”
During a July 13 interview, Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, also said an effort to strip the provision from the final bill would be “a deal breaker for me.”
“Upstate New Yorkers continue to pay among the highest taxes in the nation including local taxes,” Tenney said in a statement Monday. “This measure would provide the most significant tax relief for upstate New Yorkers in generations. We must continue to fight to get this important measure passed.”
The Senate is expected to hold a health care vote early this week, but it was unclear Monday what would be in the bill. Senate Republicans stressed that the parliamentarian’s guidance released Friday on an earlier draft of the bill is not a formal ruling and may be used to edit the final legislation.
GOP Rep. John Faso, of the Hudson Valley, who authored the Medicaid provision with Rep. Chris Collins of Buffalo, on Monday said he was looking at other ways to advance the legislation.
“There are many avenues to get this done, including by passing my legislation as a stand-alone bill or by attaching it to other legislation,” Faso said in a statement. His spokesman said Faso would give the final health care bill his “full and thoughtful consideration.”
Collins also pledged not to give up. "If this fails, there will certainly be other opportunities to present this language as an amendment, and we plan to keep fighting for much needed tax relief for New York property taxpayers," he said in a statement.
New York raises more than any other state from counties to fund its $27 billion Medicaid liability. Republicans say the New York Medicaid measure will relieve Upstate property taxpayers. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has said the loss of $2.3 billion paid by counties outside New York City would devastate medical facilities in Upstate New York and on Long Island.
Cuomo, who has threatened to sue the federal government if the GOP heath care bill passes, called the parliamentarian’s decision “a victory for New Yorkers.”
“The people of this state are not falling for Faso and Collins’ political Ponzi scheme, and they will remember next November that they were elected to protect them and fought to hurt them,” he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, of New York, said the parliamentarian’s ruling on the New York Medicaid provision will have the greatest effect on Republicans’ ability to pass the health care bill.
“This will greatly tie the majority leader’s hands as he tries to win over reluctant Republicans with state-specific provisions,” he said in a statement Friday. “We will challenge every one of them.”
Nicole Gaudiano is a correspondent with USA TODAY Network's Washington Bureau.