News / USA

Democrats, Republicans Dig in on US Health Care Reform

Congressional Democrats said Friday they will push ahead with a controversial health care reform plan, President Barack Obama's top domestic policy goal.  Both sides in the health care debate are assessing the political landscape in the wake of Thursday's seven-hour discussion on the issue hosted by President Obama.

As expected, the marathon talking session did not produce any bipartisan agreement on health care, and the stage appears set for Democrats to make one final push in Congress to enact the president's top domestic priority with or without help from opposition Republicans.

The so called health care summit gave both sides an opportunity to restate their positions on the issue, with the president playing the role of moderator in search of common ground.

But given the hardened positions on both sides, Mr. Obama signaled that he and his Democratic allies were prepared to move ahead on the issue and let the public render a verdict in the congressional midterm elections in November.

"And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions and then that's what elections are for.  We have honest disagreements about the vision for the country and we'll go ahead and test those out over the next several months till November," said the president.

Republicans saw little movement toward common ground in the summit.  This is the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"Frankly, I was discouraged by the outcome.  I do not believe there will be any Republican support for this 2,700-page bill," he said.

If anything, the meeting seemed to highlight the ideological differences between the two parties on health care.

Conservatives like Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl oppose the Democratic plan as an intrusion of government into the private sector that will result in soaring budget deficits.

"There are some fundamental differences between us here that we cannot paper over.  And, Mr. President, when you said that this is a philosophical debate and it is a legitimate debate, I agree with that," said Kyl.

Democrats who emerged from the meeting seemed just as determined to press ahead with plans to extend health insurance coverage to about 30 million Americans who currently do not have it.

After a year of debate, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said it is time for action.

"Time is of the essence.  The American people have waited five decades for this.  It is time we do something and we are going to do it," he said.

Many political experts said the health care summit yielded little in terms of bipartisanship and seemed more an exercise in political theatre.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of the Weekly Standard magazine:

"My verdict on it was that it was unusual but it really didn't lead anywhere.  In other words, it did not improve the chances of the health care legislation that President Obama so much wants to get passed," he said.

Barnes spoke on VOA's Issues in the News program, as did longtime political observer Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News.

"The ideological differences may be so strong that they just will not be able to come together, and I don't believe that they will.  Obama kept trying to get the Republicans to try to find some middle ground, but it is pretty clear there is not much, if any, middle ground," Barenes said.

Democrats must decide now how they will move ahead in trying to pass the reform measure.  Public opinion polls show Americans oppose the Democratic reform bill, even though surveys also show most Americans want Congress to do something about the rising cost of health care.

Tom DeFrank says the next several weeks will be a major political test for President Obama.

"Obama has to prove that he can govern, and to prove you can govern, you have got to get something passed.  So far, his list of legislative accomplishments is pretty meager, and he does have to worry about midterm elections in November of this year," said DeFrank.

What happens to Mr. Obama's health care plan will have an enormous impact on his political standing, both at home and abroad.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee this week that the domestic political battle over health care and other issues is having an impact on the president's foreign policy goals and the U.S. image overseas.

"We have to be attuned to how the rest of the world sees the functioning of our government because it is an asset.  It may be an intangible asset, but it is an asset of great importance, and as we sell democracy and we are the lead democracy in the world, I want people to know that we have checks and balances but we also have the capacity to move, too," Clinton said.

Democrats say they remain open to Republican ideas on health care, but several Republicans at the health care summit urged the president to simply scrap the Democratic bill and start over.

Republicans often cite public opposition to the bill in opinion polls, and they expect that opposition to help them gain seats in the November congressional elections.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs