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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora