WASHINGTON -- Republican legislation to offer prescription drug insurance under Medicare is headed for the House floor after a contentious committee session that underscored the political stakes involved less than five months before elections.
''I'm happy to have you on the record,'' Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., said to Republicans shortly before they advanced the bill on a party-line vote late Wednesday.
''It's a political exercise on your part,'' he added, and vowed to pay for a campaign advertisement in the district of a committee Republican this fall ''saying he doesn't care about seniors.''
The Republican bill would rely on private insurance companies, aided by government subsidies, to offer prescription drug coverage to seniors nationwide. It carries a price tag of $40 billion over five years.
The measure is penciled in for a floor vote next week, an ambitious schedule given the complexity of the issue and the political jockeying under way. A tough fight is expected, with Democrats laboring to hold down defections in hopes of denying Republicans a bipartisan victory they can trumpet in their campaigns this fall.
On prescription drugs, Democrats backed an alternative for a uniform government-defined Medicare prescription drug benefit.
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