Despite the president's opposition, the bill passed with vetoproof majorities.
Patrick D. McDermott/UPI/NEWSCOM
That's the political fallout from last week's surprise Senate vote that saw 18 Republicans – including nine who reversed previous stands – vote with all Democrats to block a mandated 10.6 percent cut in payments to physicians who treat Medicare patients. On the House side, 129 Republicans broke with the White House in a June 24 vote on the bill.
If these votes hold, Congress wields more than a vetoproof, two-thirds majority in both houses. The lopsided votes are already spurring talk among Democrats of reviving previously vetoed legislation, such as a bid to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
"This legislation sends a tremendous message to the American people, and, I hope, paves the way for bipartisan activity," said Senate majority leader Harry Reid after the July 9 vote.
On Monday, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that Mr. Bush still plans to veto the bill, as early as Tuesday. Despite the lopsided vote – 355 to 59 in the House and 69 to 30 on a key procedural vote in the Senate – the president is committed to opposing a bill that "denies seniors healthcare choices they otherwise might have," Mr. Fratto says. In addition to physician pay cuts, the bill also proposes cuts to Medicare Advantage, a private Medicare plan that aims to create competition and, over time, lower health costs by fostering creativity. The Bush administration had delayed implementing the physician pay cut until July 15.