News

Senate Moves to Major Vote on Health Care Reform

Even if successful, drafting a compromise measure with the House of Representatives may be the toughest part of all

Snow on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sunday, 20 Dec. 2009
Snow on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sunday, 20 Dec. 2009

This is President Barack Obama's biggest legislative priority.   And it could have an impact on the health and wealth of Americans for generations to come.

The drafting process has proven cumbersome and controversial.  In the Senate, extraordinary steps were taken to win the support of a handful of Democrats who threatened to vote "no."

With the last hold-out, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, now on board, the focus on Capitol Hill is beginning to shift to the crucial task of reconciling the more liberal House version, with the one expected to clear the Senate before Christmas.

A top advisor to the president indicates there is no doubt at the White House a piece of legislation will eventually clear Congress.  David Axelrod told the NBC television program Meet the Press that the Senate has moved the process forward.

"Obviously, it is a big step along the way," he noted.  "We have got additional steps to take.  The House has a bill. The Senate has a bill."

Axelrod said work on a House-Senate compromise will begin in January, when Congress returns from its holiday recess.  He predicted it will be tough, but doable.

"Seven presidents have tried to pass comprehensive health insurance reform. Seven presidents have failed.  We have been talking about it for a hundred years.  We are on the doorstep of getting it done and it will be a great victory for the American people," he added.

Both the House and Senate bills attempt to improve the accessibility and affordability of health care in a nation where most people rely on private insurance to meet medical costs.

But there are major differences in approach.  The House includes a government-funded health care plan to help the 30 million Americans without private insurance. The Senate bill does not provide for a so-called "public option," but does add more restrictions on government funding for abortions.

North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, will play a major role in negotiations on the final language of the bill.   He told the Fox News Sunday television program, the Senate version must prevail because it will take take far more than a simple majority to clear all the possible procedural hurdles to final passage.

"I think any bill has got to have to be very close to what the Senate has passed because we are still going to have to get 60 votes," he said.  "And anybody who has watched this process can see how challenging it has been to get 60 votes."

That means holding on to all 58 Democrats in the Senate plus the two independents who caucus with the party.  Republicans have all voiced opposition to the bill.

Senator John McCain of Arizona told Fox News Sunday the Republicans will not back down.

"We will fight until the last vote," he said.  "We owe that to our constituents because we can't - we must [be able to] look back and say we did everything we can to prevent this terrible mistake from taking place."

McCain said the health care reform legislation making its way through Congress will have a devastating impact on the national debt.  But Conrad said congressional accountants have said it will actually cut the debt in the long term.

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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs