Tag Archives: health care reform

Health care reform: House marches toward repeal vote

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After promising a new era of openness and fiscal restraint, House Republicans veered from that standard on the first big vote of the new Congress: the repeal of health-care reform.

The powerful Rules Committee on Thursday vetted dozens of amendments, mainly from Democrats, but rejected all but one on party-line votes, eliminating the possibility of changes to legislation on the floor and leaving Democrats crying foul. [Editor’s note: This paragraph has been changed from the original to account for an accepted amendment.]

GOP leaders also rejected calls to offset the cost of repeal, estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $230 billion over the next 10 years – more than double the spending cuts that the new GOP majority aims to pare from spending bills for fiscal year 2011. The CBO’s preliminary estimate of the cost of repeal, released Thursday, also projects that repeal would leave 32 million more Americans uninsured.

The full House on Friday accepted that rule, setting the terms for next week’s floor debate and ensuring the final vote will be a straight up or down one. The Friday vote in favor of those terms was 236 to 181, falling mainly along partisan lines.

Responding to criticism that this rule violates a key GOP pledge, Rep. David Drier (R) of California, who chairs the Rules Committee, said: “There is nothing to amend to the repeal bill. Either we’re going to wipe the slate clean and start fresh or we’re not.”

“Once that slate is completely wiped clean, we will be ready for this open and collaborative process to develop the real solutions we promised,” he added in Friday’s floor debate on the rule.

In a break with past practice, the entire meeting was televised – fulfilling a GOP pledge to make all committee proceedings more accessible to the public.

“I promised a more open process. I didn’t promise that every single bill was going to be an open bill,” said Speaker John Boehner in his first press briefing on Thursday. “We went through a whole Congress, two years without one – without one open rule. As I said yesterday, there will be many open rules in this Congress, and just watch.”

Democrats had hoped to force repeal proponents to take recorded votes on the most popular aspects of the new law, thus providing grist for campaign ads in the 2012 elections. These include ending the new ban on insurance companies discriminating on the basis of preexisting conditions, taking away the option for young adults up to the age of 26 to be covered by their parents’ health insurance, and free annual wellness visits, tax breaks to help employers pay for coverage for employees, and a ban on lifetime caps on coverage.

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Obama is “Extraordinarily Proud” of Healthcare

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President Barack Obama, in a wide-ranging, reflective interview with Barbara Walters, staunchly defended his controversial policies — including sweeping health care reforms and the massive economic stimulus package — as bold but necessary steps to help transform an economy that was at the brink of collapse to one that is “growing.” ”The notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true,” Obama told Walters in the interview, which aired on ABC Friday evening. “The fact is, that we stabilized the financial system … we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy.”

 And despite the intense criticism and political costs, the president said the health care overhaul will be “a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of.”

 The interview covered an array of topics, from North Korea, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2010 midterm elections, family life inside the White House, and outrage over the Transportation Security Administration’s new enhanced airport screening procedures.

Obama said the system — in which passengers must pass through bomb-detection scanners that penetrate clothing, or undergo aggressive pat-downs that some have compared to sexual assault — is “gonna be something that evolves.

“We are gonna have to work on it,” the president said. “I understand people’s frustrations with it, but I also know that if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people … and it turned out that we could have prevented it, possibly … that would be something that would be pretty upsetting to most of us — including me.”

Of his sagging approval ratings, Obama told Walters, “First of all, I’m not so unpopular,” pointing out that his poll numbers are “a little higher” than Bill Clinton’s and Ronald Reagan’s at comparable points in their presidencies.

 The president said he understands that unemployment numbers are “frustrating to people,” and that he isn’t making “any excuses.”

 Still, he said, “We’ve been through tougher times before as a country, and we’ve always come up on top.”

Obama told Walters that in the coming months, he would like to focus on education, research and development, and reducing the deficit.

Obama said he’s looking forward to meeting with Republican leaders next week to discuss a tax-cut extension and is eager to “hear what their ideas are.”

“We need to get this resolved,” he said. “I expect that I don’t end up getting everything I want. I think hopefully they come to the table understanding they’re not going to get everything they want.”

Turning to North Korea, Obama called this week’s incident “one more provocative incident in a series that we’ve seen over the last several months.”

“We want to make sure all the parties in the region recognize that this is a serious and ongoing threat that this has to be dealt with,” he said. “South Korea is our ally. It has been since the Korean War, and we strongly affirm our commitment to defend South Korea as part of that alliance.”

He said he would not speculate on the possibility of military action yet but said the tensions represent “the cornerstone of U.S. security in the Pacific region.”

On ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who lambasted Obama and the media after she was criticized for confusing South Korea and North Korea in an interview, Obama said: “I don’t speculate on what’s going to happen two years from now … What I’m saying is that I don’t think of Sarah Palin.”

The president appeared in the interview with first lady Michelle Obama, who revealed to Walters that she told her husband “let’s get to work” after the so-called “shellacking” Democrats took in the midterm elections.

“I said, ‘Let’s, let’s get to work. There is a lot to do.’ … I think for, for us, it’s always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead,” the first lady said in the interview, which was taped on Tuesday at the White House.

Obama said the advice from his wife came after election night — because the first lady had gone to sleep before all the results had come in.

“She goes to sleep early,” he said.

“I go to bed early,” the first lady said with a laugh. ” I can’t stay awake for the returns … I gotta get up, work out. I figured … it was going to be whatever it was going to be the next day. So I did, I did go to sleep.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45612.html#ixzz16VzynP6f

How Will Mid-Term Elections Effect The Attempts To Repeal Health-Care?

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Even with a broad and historic majority, House Republicans have formidable roadblocks to delivering on a top campaign promise: to repeal or dismantle comprehensive health-care reform.

An outright repeal would have to get past a Democrat-controlled Senate and, more formidably, the Democratic president, who made health-care reform his No. 1 domestic priority earlier this year. Republicans don’t have the two-thirds majority required in both Houses to override a presidential veto.

Yet outright repeal is likely to be the first floor vote – after the vote for speaker – when the new Congress convenes in January.

No legislation more symbolizes what Republicans – and especially the conservative tea party movement – have dubbed the overreach of an out-of-touch majority. It’s a key vote for an insurgent freshman class eager to demonstrate that the 2010 election is producing change Washington.

“The health-care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health-care system in the world, and bankrupt our country,” said Rep. John Boehner (R) of Ohio, the presumptive House speaker, at a press briefing with GOP leaders Wednesday morning. “That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance.”

Mr. Boehner, says former GOP majority leader Dick Armey, “will find that the House will repeal it with no less than 20 Democratic votes.” He adds, “Don’t worry about what the Senate does.”

Mr. Armey advised and backed many tea party candidates.

For his part, President Obama is standing firm on the health-care law. “I’m sure this is an issue that will come up in discussions with Republican leadership, but I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years,” he said at a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

“If Republicans have ideas for how to improve our health-care system … I’m happy to consider some of those ideas,” he added.

Still, a strong move by Republicans on health care may be essential to sweeten what could be a bitter vote for the new GOP class: raising the national debt limit, now set at $14.9 trillion. Although conservatives campaigned aggressively against a soaring national debt, Mr. Armey predicts that tea party freshmen will back a new debt limit.

“It’s a legacy vote of the irresponsible spending that came before this time. Just in terms of avoiding breakdown, this vote has got to be made,” he adds.

House Democrats may opt to move this item in a lame-duck session, before the new lawmakers arrive.

In their “governing agenda,” House Republican leaders have already committed to repealing the “job killing” health-care law. “Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law,” Republicans promised in their “Pledge to America,” which they released in September.

But they are also proposing that Congress enact elements left out of the Obama health-care law, such as medical liability reforms, the option of purchasing health-care insurance across state lines, and the expansion of health savings accounts.
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States’ Healthcare Suit Will Move Forward

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U.S. states can proceed with a lawsuit seeking to overturn President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law, a Florida judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson had said at a hearing last month that he would block efforts by the Justice Department to dismiss the lawsuit, led by Florida and 19 other states.

“In this order, I have not attempted to determine whether the line between constitutional and extraconstitutional government has been crossed,” Vinson, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, wrote in his ruling.

“I am only saying that … the plaintiffs have at least stated a plausible claim that the line has been crossed,” Vinson said.

Opponents of Obama’s overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system have said it violates the Constitution by imposing what they consider unlawful taxes and requiring citizens to obtain healthcare coverage, among other issues.

The suit was originally filed in March by mostly Republican state attorneys general.

The ruling allowing the case to proceed was a setback for Obama, who has made healthcare reform a cornerstone of his agenda and who is struggling to fight off a strong Republican challenge in November 2 mid-term Congressional elections.

Vinson dismissed four of six claims the states brought against the healthcare law but said he saw grounds to proceed on two counts, including one relating to the way critics say it would force huge new spending by state governments.

On the issue of the so-called “individual mandate,” the law’s provision that all Americans obtain healthcare insurance, Vinson said the plaintiffs had “most definitely stated a plausible claim” for their objections.

“The power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent,” he said.

The White House said the government expects to prevail.

“We saw this with the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — constitutional challenges were brought to all three of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all of those challenges failed,” presidential adviser Stephanie Cutter wrote in a blog post.

“VICTORY FOR STATES”

Vinson said the case would continue as scheduled. He had previously set a hearing for December 16.

“This ruling is a victory for the states, small businesses and the American people,” Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said.

“This decision is a recognition that Congress has never gone this far and that the constitutional arguments have real merit,” Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said.

The challenge being heard by Vinson is one of many against the healthcare law. There is a hearing in Virginia Monday on the merits of a separate suit against the healthcare overhaul.

On October 7, a Michigan District Court judge upheld the portion of the healthcare law requiring Americans to obtain coverage. The Michigan judge, in a ruling noted by Vinson, said Congress had the authority to enact the law under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and therefore could also impose a penalty for those who failed to obtain health insurance.

Apart from Florida, states joining in the lawsuit include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Washington.

Legal analysts say there is a good possibility the matter will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, but most say there is only a slim chance the states would prevail.

(Additional reporting by Maggie Fox, Patricia Zengerle and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Xavier Briand)
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