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US Democrats Highlight Accomplishments on Healthcare, Economy

Majority Democrats are pointing to accomplishments as the U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for its summer recess. Although Democrats were unable to achieve President Barack Obama's goal of a vote in the chamber on health care reform, a key committee voted late Friday 31 to 28 to approve its version of legislation after a compromise with fiscally-conservative members seeking additional cost reductions.

After two intense days considering numerous amendments from Democrats and minority Republicans, the House Energy and Commerce Committee completed and voted to approve one of three versions of health care reform to have emerged in the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers now return to their home districts where they will use the August recess to try to sustain or in some cases regain public support for proposals to create a government option to compete with private insurers, and expand health coverage to the 46 million to 50 million Americans currently without it.

When the House returns in September, Democrats will face the arduous task of combining separate measures into one bill the House will consider.

In a news conference, Democratic leaders pointed to a list of measures approved since President Barack Obama came to office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi underscored progress on the healthcare issue saying Americans can look forward to a new era not dominated by the health insurance industry.

"The health insurance industry is the biggest opponent of this legislation passing and with a public option in it, because they know the glory days are over for them, the leverage has switched to the consumer," she said. "Congress and the president will remove the insurance industry from coming between the patient and his or her doctor."

Democrats made a point of highlighting positive economic developments they assert are directly linked to approval earlier this year of President Obama's economic stimulus and other steps aimed at restoring confidence in financial markets.

Representative Steny Hoyer cited a brighter picture recently for the Dow Jones Industrial index, and improvements in the U.S. housing market, saying these show management of the economy under Democrats is working.

"The Dow has gained more than 1,300 points. Yet there are some who say it is not working. Well the people who are investing and buying stocks apparently think something is working. 1,300 points since the adoption of the [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act]. And in the housing market, one of the crises that we confronted, we just saw the largest monthly gain in nine years," said Hoyer.

A member of the U.S. Senate who has played a key role in both healthcare and financial system reform for Democrats, Senator Christopher Dodd who heads the Senate Banking Committee, announced Friday that he had early stage prostate cancer.

In a news conference in his home state of Connecticut, Dodd said he will undergo surgery and return to work in September. Voicing optimism about his prognosis, he said he will run for re-election in 2010, and used the announcement to underscore the importance of healthcare reform.

"It's not about me, it's about people without healthcare, or the ones who are under-insured, people out there who struggle every day. That is what really is at risk here by not getting this job done," he said.

Republicans have spent the past several weeks questioning both the effectiveness of the economic stimulus, and Democratic proposals to reform the nation's healthcare system.

Representative Mike Pence continued that strategy on the floor of the House on Friday, emphasizing another Republican talking point that Democrat's plans entail sharp tax increases and will add to the federal deficit:

"Included in the Democrat bill, according to official estimates, $820.1 billion over 10 years. The chance for the American people to know what is in this plan and to come back and pass healthcare reform without more government and more taxes? Priceless," he said.

Yet, Democrats were able to claim another legislative accomplishment on Friday - House approval of a measure that would restrict how highly-paid Wall Street executives are compensated.

The 237 to 185 vote accomplished one key aspect of President Obama's goal of increasing oversight of and accountability in financial institutions that received billions of dollars in federal government rescue funds.

Though it includes the president's financial reform suggestions, the measure goes a step farther with a provision aimed at discouraging firms from offering pay incentives that might encourage employees to take risks that could threaten a company or the U.S. economy.

Healthcare reform efforts in the Senate, which has one more week before adjournment, will also fail to achieve President Obama's objective of a vote in that chamber before the summer recess.

After intense negotiations on a version of healthcare legislation , the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus announced that he will not be able to advance a measure toward approval by that committee next week.