(by Jenny Booth, London’s TimesOnline.co.uk) – Senate Republicans have managed to delay the final piece of President Obama’s healthcare reforms by identifying minor procedural snags that will require a final vote in the House of Representatives.
The news is a blow for Democrats, who had worked to avoid returning any part of the legislation to the House, where a fragile coalition was assembled to pass the main Bill on Sunday.
“After hours of trying to find a way to block this, they [Republicans] found two relatively minor provisions that are violations of Senate procedure, which means we’re going to have to send it back to the House,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader.
The setback came as Senate Democrats were pushing towards the final passage of a second healthcare Bill, drafted to supplement the landmark legislation signed into law on Tuesday.
The second Bill enshrines a number of financial concessions aimed at smoothing acceptance of the main reforms, including help for pensioners with high prescription drug costs and for lower-to-middle income families who cannot afford the cost of insurance.
Republicans lacked the votes to stop it, but in a [session] that ran late into the night they [proposed] one amendment after another…. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said that his party would continue to fight until the bill was repealed.
In the first vote, senators rejected by 56 to 42 a proposal by Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, to forbid the use of $529 billion (£354 billion) in projected Medicare savings for new government programs.
Another failed amendment was a proposal by Senator John McCain to remove what he called “sweetheart deals” that helped to secure Democratic support for the main Bill – the promise of more Medicaid funding for Louisiana and for hospitals in Hawaii and Tennessee.
The Democrats made a promise to Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to prevent a drop in Medicaid reimbursements after Hurricane Katrina, and another to provide medical care for victims of asbestos exposure in Libby, Montana.
The Senate rejected another amendment by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to prohibit federal money from providing Viagra for convicted child molesters and rapists, and for drugs to induce abortions.
Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the top Republican on the Senate Health Committee, offered an amendment that would remove a requirement for most employers to provide coverage to workers or face penalties.
In response an exasperated Mr. Reid vowed to keep the Senate in all night, and accused Republicans of deliberately obstructing passage of the legislation with amendments they knew would fail.
“It’s very clear that there’s no attempt to improve the bill; there’s an attempt to destroy this bill,” Mr Reid said.
By the early hours, Republicans had offered 30 consecutive amendments and seen them knocked back over the course of a sitting lasting more than eight hours – until they [found] provisions that violated budget rules.
News of the hitch emerged at close to 3am. In response Mr Reid ended the sitting and ruled that the Senate would resume at 9.45am.
The two provisions, dealing with Pell grants for low-income college students, will have to be removed from the Bill.
After those provisions have been deleted and the Senate has passed the measure, the House of Representatives will have to approve the legislation before sending it to Mr Obama for his signature.
Democrats put a brave face on the hitch. Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, said that the changes were minor and involved education-related provisions unrelated to healthcare.
Mr. Manley said that he was confident the House would pass the revised Bill.
The setback came hours after Mr. Obama confirmed that he would keep his promise not to use federal funds to pay for elective abortions covered by private insurance – the key deal struck at the weekend with a small group of [pro-life] Democrats that was the decisive factor ensuring passage of the legislation. …………..
Most of the Bill’s estimated $938 billion cost for coverage would pay for assistance to help families with annual incomes of up to $88,000 to pay for insurance, although small businesses also would receive subsidies as an incentive to cover their employees.
The two Bills combined call for nearly $1 trillion in higher taxes and Medicare cuts over ten years, provisions that sparked strong opposition from congressional Republicans, all of whom voted against the Bill.
For the first time, millions of Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. That requirement was at the heart of much of the opposition to the legislation by Republicans, conservative activists and others. Thirteen attorneys general have already filed suits to try to invalidate the law. …………….[President] Obama is to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, today for a campaign-style event to promote the benefits of the healthcare overhaul.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Times Online. Visit the website at timesonline.co.uk.
1. Republican Senators proposed 30 amendments to the Democrats’ health care bill last night. List the amendments described in the article that were voted down by Democrats.
2. Which amendment proposed by Republicans did the Senate vote to include in the bill, therefore sending it back to the House for a final vote?
3. a) What did Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid accuse Republicans of doing?
b) Re-read the proposed amendments. Do you think the Senate should have passed any of them? Explain your answer.
4. What promise did President Obama confirm he would keep to a few pro-life Democrats? Be specific.
5. The amendment to the bill that was passed has to do with student loans.
a) Do you think that a student loan provision belongs in the health care bill?
b) Congress has a habit of including unrelated funding proposals onto legislation. Do you support this practice? Explain your answer.
6. Do you think the majority of Americans support the Democrats’ health care bill? Explain your answer.
(Read today’s commentary on health care reform, written by a 20 year old college student.)
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