Jun 11, 2024 - Health

Senate may have the votes to scrap Biden's nursing home staffing mandate

Illustration of an older man walking with a cain assisted by a cutout, empty space for a nurse

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

A resolution aimed at overturning President Biden's controversial nursing home staffing minimums has a chance of passing the Senate.

Why it matters: The vote would show the resistance to the first-of-its-kind standard and reveal a rift among Democrats, even though Biden would almost certainly veto the measure.

Between the lines: Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Joe Manchin (I-W. Va.) are sponsoring the Congressional Review Act resolution released last week. They and all of the chamber's Republicans could deliver the simple majority of votes required for passage.

  • The standard would, among other things, require 33 minutes of care per patient per day from a registered nurse, which backers argue would make nursing homes safer and ensure seniors are not left in need for hours.
  • "It would be a shame if lawmakers move forward with trying to stop this life-saving rule in its tracks," an AARP spokesperson said about the resolution.
  • But nursing home operators and their allies say it's impossible to meet because of persistent health workforce shortages, especially in rural areas, and would force some facilities to close.

What they're saying: Tester, who's up for reelection in a red state, has been outspoken against the mandate, citing its potential impact on rural facilities, and sought to distance himself from Biden.

  • "At a time when nursing homes across Montana are struggling with workforce shortage issues, it makes no sense for unelected bureaucrats in the Biden administration to hand down a one-size-fits-all policy that would force these critical facilities to shutter their doors," Tester said in a statement.
  • Manchin, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, similarly cited the strains on rural health systems in a statement.

Zoom in: Independent senators who caucus with Democrats, including Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Angus King of Maine, are signed onto a separate bill from Tester that would block the staffing mandate and create an advisory council to make recommendations on the nursing home workforce.

What's next: The timing on when Tester and Manchin might force a floor vote is unclear.

  • "It's got to be fully ripe and ready to go," said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), one of the resolution's lead sponsors. "We have not set the exact date on that yet, but we definitely want to do it."

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