The measure also cuts more than $6 billion in spending on Medicare over the next five years, including a $1.2 billion reduction in payments to hospitals. At the same time, it avoids a planned 4.4% cut in doctor payments by pouring $7.3 billion into the program.
Doctors' groups lobbied aggressively for the increase, saying it was needed for them to continue providing services to the elderly. Democrats warned that it would translate to higher payments by those patients because beneficiaries pay 25% of the cost of doctor visits through premiums.
"They'll go up, up for all seniors," Reid said before the vote.
AARP, the powerful seniors' lobbying group, strongly opposed the cuts and vowed to exact a political cost on lawmakers who voted to support them. "This vote is so important to us that we will emphasize it throughout the coming year and into the midterm elections" in November 2006, John Rother, the groups chief lobbyist told reporters.
The budget passed the House 212-206 in a predawn vote Monday shortly before the body adjourned for the year. In an unusual move Wednesday, Senate Democrats placed one last hurdle in the bill's path before it reaches President Bush for a signature.
Democrats used Senate procedures to slightly alter the bill's final language before passing it. That will force at least part of the House to reconvene in the coming weeks to revote on a measure it has already passed.