News

Senate Headed Toward Thursday Morning Vote on Health Care Reform

The U.S. Senate is on course for a final vote early Thursday on health care reform legislation after a week of wrangling and a series of procedural votes.  Democrats have been able to hold together a 60-vote majority required to pass the bill. But, difficult negotiations with the House of Representatives lie ahead, as lawmakers attempt to reconcile differences and send a single bill to President Barack Obama early in the new year.

Though arcane legislative procedures stretched the health care debate through the month of December, senators are now on track to end a process marked by some of the most bitter partisanship seen in the chamber.

The Senate will first vote on Wednesday to formally end debate on a bill that would provide health insurance to about 30 million more Americans, create new private insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, and ban the practice of denying coverage to individuals with existing health problems.

Democratic and Republican leaders reached an agreement to hold a final vote on the legislation at eight o'clock Thursday morning.

Democrats, including Max Baucus of Montana, who steered the legislation through difficult committee-level debates earlier this year, used a news conference to say the Senate is on the cusp of a historic achievement.

"We are truly closer than ever to bringing security and stability to our health care system, to providing real reform that American families, businesses and workers so desperately need," said Max Baucus.

The Senate measure and one already approved by the House of Representatives contain similarities, but also big differences.

Senate Democrats failed to obtain support in their caucus to create a new government-run insurance option, and were forced to drop an alternative plan to make millions of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 eligible for the government-run Medicare program.

That sets up difficult negotiations with House lawmakers, including the most liberal members, who have insisted that true reform requires a government-run insurance plan, which is included in the House measure.

Asked about the scenario, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear his main focus is first to get the bill out of the Senate.

"We are focused on passing this bill," said Harry Reid. "We will work with our House counterparts,  we will work with the White House, but that is going to come at a subsequent time.  Our focus today and tomorrow is to complete this legislation."

Senate and House bills are estimated at $871 billion and $894 billion respectively.  However, the 10 year costs of expanding coverage to 94 to 96 percent of Americans is put at more than $1 trillion.  Both would provide subsidies for lower-income Americans, paid for through tax increases and reduced spending in the huge Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Republicans, such as Senator Jeff Sessions, continued to hammer away at what they call questionable methods they assert Democrats used to conceal the true budgetary impact of the Senate bill.

"These are huge costs," said Jeff Sessions. "It is not financially-sound. It is not going to reduce our [health insurance] premiums; it is going to increase the percentage of wealth in America going to health care instead of reducing it, like [as] I thought we were supposed to do from the beginning."

In another move to block the bill, Senator John Ensign asserted that a key provision requiring Americans to obtain insurance is unconstitutional.

"Freedom and choice are very precious rights," said John Ensign. "Let's not bury our heads in the sand and take away freedom and choice from American citizens."

President Obama said on Tuesday he would delay his departure for a vacation in Hawaii to await the outcome of the Senate vote.

"I will not leave until my friends in the Senate have completed their work," said Mr. Obama. "My attitude is that, if they're making these sacrifices to provide health care to all Americans, then the least I can do is to be around and provide them any encouragement and last minute help where necessary."

Recent public opinion polls have shown declining support among Americans for the Senate's health care reform bill, and the president has also seen his personal job approval ratings decline. 
 

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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs