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Reid's filibuster overhaul clears way for White House to stack ObamaCare panel

President Obama will have an easier time filling the 15 slots on a controversial Medicare-cutting board, thanks to Harry Reid's successful bid last week to overhaul the Senate's filibuster rules. 

The Senate Democratic leader, in a pre-holiday surprise, last week corralled Democrats to drastically change how the Senate deals with presidential nominees. Instead of taking 60 votes to confirm most appointees, it will now take just 51. 

That means, as long as Democrats are in power, it smoothes the way for Obama to appoint people to the panel established under ObamaCare to hold down Medicare costs. 

Republicans are now worried about the implications for the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. 

Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess, a medical doctor, is concerned about the power of the advisory board. 

"They are people who are well removed from the active practice of medicine," Burgess told Fox News. "So that becomes even more problematic when you think of damage the Affordable Care act does to the doctor-patient relationship. This may be the final straw." 

Former Democratic Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, also a doctor, has his concerns as well, voiced before the Senate rule change. 

"By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them," Dean wrote in a July 28 Wall Street Journal op-ed. 

Other liberal supporters of ObamaCare say while doctors and hospitals may get squeezed, patients will not suffer. 

"What could change eventually is if the plan includes certain tweaks to reimbursement rates the government pays to hospitals and doctors, but even that is subject to congressional approval," Igor Volsky of Thinkprogress.org told Fox News. "So there's checks and balances in the system." 

But Burgess noted that if Congress can't agree to a change, the Health and Human Services secretary "has the ability to implement the cuts of the board."

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.