Congress, which has Friday off, finished their work week with an exciting, and unusually productive day of legislating on Thursday. The Senate voted to move the long-gestating unemployment aid extension forward, and the House "muscled" in a vote on a bill that would prevent Medicare payment cuts for doctors, according to The New York Times. This was all part of a more-productive-than-usual day in Washington, "where actual lawmaking has already given way to the partisan grandstanding typical of an election year," writes The Times. And while the day is noteworthy for the number of bills considered and voted on — but not actually passed, that would be asking too much — the real accomplishment is that our nation's leaders compromised. Mostly.
The 'doc fix'
To be fair, this wasn't so much a compromise as a calculated bipartisan effort to subvert conservative opposition. As The Wire explained earlier, Congress has been putting off a long-term plan to change the way Medicare doctors are paid for decades. The "doc fix" Congress agreed upon would have solved that problem, but the version the House voted for had a 10-year delay of the individual mandate attached to it.
Since that was never going to pass the Senate, Congress drafted yet another one-year patch. When House leaders realized they didn't have the votes to pass it, they just did a voice vote before everyone showed up, in what many conservatives are calling a "bullshit" vote, writes The Hill. As Republican Rep. Justin Amash described it on Twitter, "Short on votes for controversial spending bill, so GOP & Dem leaders rammed it through by ‘voice vote’ in empty House chamber. Not right.” The Senate will vote on the bill on Monday.
The House voted 399-19 to pass a bill that adds further sanctions to Russia and sends aid to the Ukraine. Remember, on Monday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the GOP's opposition to the Senate's aid package was what encouraged Russia to annex Crimea. This bill passed easily, in part because Reid took out a provision, opposed by Republicans, to aid the International Monetary Fund.
The Senate voted 65-34 for a bipartisan bill to renew unemployment aid, even though Speaker John Boehner has said he has no plans of bringing up the bill in the House, according to Politico. Conservative Representatives are against long-term aid and the estimated $10 billion the plan would cost, and Boehner pointed to a lack of job creation efforts.
The support of a handful of GOP senators helped push the bill over the edge, "a significant breakthrough after a similar package fell just one vote short in February and other measures suffered numerous false starts this year," writes Politico. The article went so far as to call this compromise "remarkable." The sad thing is, that's the right word.