Chances of sequester deal look slim after Senate Democrats unveil proposal

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A Democratic proposal to replace the sweeping automatic spending cuts known as the sequester appears unlikely to pass the Senate, leading lawmakers and political observers to predict the $85 billion in cuts will take effect as scheduled on March 1.

Many long-term care providers have watched the sequester battle anxiously, as the cuts include a 2% Medicare reduction. LTC stakeholders have protested the cut, especially in light of an 11.1% across-the-board cut in the Medicare payment rate to skilled nursing facilities that took effect in 2011.

The Senate Democrats introduced their proposal on Feb. 14. To help achieve $110 billion in total deficit reduction, the plan contains $55 billion in tax increases. Republicans have said they will not agree to any deal that contains tax hikes.

“We're pretty far away [to a deal] because we have revenue in ours,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), according to The Hill newspaper.

The likelihood of a deal before the March 1 deadline was further diminished when the House and Senate voted on Feb. 15 to adjourn for the week of Presidents Day. Every Democrat in the House voted against the recess, but lost by a margin of 222-190. The Senate later agreed to the recess by unanimous consent. Congress will reconvene on Feb. 25.

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