News / USA

Obama Hosts Unprecedented Broadcast Health-Care Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday launched what some analysts say could be his last major push to get a health care reform bill through Congress.  At a nationally televised meeting with top lawmakers, the president urged Republicans and Democrats to seek common ground.

They met for roughly six hours in a packed room at Blair House - the gracious old mansion near the White House that usually hosts visiting heads of state.

As television cameras captured the event, the president appealed for unity.

"We all know this is urgent," said President Obama.

He spoke of the long hours of discussion and deliberations that have already taken place on Capitol Hill, and of the bitterness and controversy that have become part of the health care debate.

"This became a very ideological battle," said Mr. Obama. "It became a very partisan battle and politics, I think, ended up trumping practical common sense."

President Obama said the tone of the debate needs to change.  He said it is time to put politics aside.

"I hope that this isn't political theater where we are just playing to the cameras and criticizing each other, but instead we are actually trying to solve the problem," said President Obama.

But it did not take long for the health care summit to turn contentious.

Republicans, like Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, said they were ignored by majority Democrats in drafting the legislation to reform the American health care system - a system where most people use private insurance to help pay their medical bills.

Democrats want greater government involvement to make sure that all Americans have access to affordable health care - including the roughly 30 million uninsured.  But Alexander stressed his party believes in a step-by-step approach to cutting costs - an approach he said would be more fiscally responsible at a time of rising federal deficits.

He told the summit that the legislation drafted by Democrats must be tossed out, and that lawmakers should start the process all over again.

"So our view, with all respect, is that this is a car that can't be recalled and fixed, and that we ought to start over," said Lamar Alexander.

And so it went, hour after hour.  As time passed, it sounded less and less like a meeting, and more and more like a Congressional debate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats would not start the legislative process all over again.  She told those around the table at Blair House to remember all of the American families that are struggling to pay for medical care.

"What we do here must be relevant to their lives," said Nancy Pelosi. "And for them, they don't have time for us to start over."

But Eric Cantor of Virginia - the number two Republican in the House of Representatives - stressed that the bill put forward by Democrats is too costly and will explode the national debt.

"We just can't afford this," said Eric Cantor. "That is the ultimate problem here - in a perfect world, everyone would have everything they want.  This government can't afford it.  Businesses can't afford it."

When the long hours of discussion concluded, it appeared that no minds had been changed, but at least a dialogue had begun.

Both sides are now expected to regroup and assess the summit results.  Democratic congressional leaders say they are hopeful something will come out of the meeting.   But they also make clear that they are willing to go it alone, if necessary, to get health care reform through Congress.  

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs