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Republicans Force Senate to Send Health-Care Changes Back to House

Harry Reid, Senate majority leader
Harry Reid, Senate majority leader

U.S. Senate Republicans have successfully challenged a White House-backed bill that makes changes to President Barack Obama's new health care reform law, forcing the House of Representatives to hold another vote on it.

An aide to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid says Republicans challenged two provisions of the bill that deal with reforms to the U.S. student loan industry.

Reid's spokesman Jim Manley said the Senate parliamentarian ruled late Wednesday that the two provisions violate Senate rules that require all parts of the bill to have a budgetary impact.

Senate Democrats submitted the legislation under those rules to enable it to pass with a simple majority in the 100-seat Senate, where they control 59 seats.

The Obama administration backed the separate bill of health-care changes in order to persuade more Democrats to support the main legislation which Mr. Obama signed into law Tuesday.

The Senate is expected to remove the items from the bill later Thursday and send it back to the Democrat-controlled House, which narrowly approved the measure Sunday by a vote of 220 to 211. Manley says he is confident the House will pass it again.

President Barack Obama travels to the mid-western state of Iowa Thursday to promote the new health care law.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama signed an executive order maintaining a ban on the use of federal money to pay for elective abortions. He promised to take the step as part of a deal with anti-abortion House Democrats to secure their support for the main health care legislation.

Mr. Obama signed the order in the presence of some of the abortion opponents, but the event was closed to the media.

Despite their setback, Senate Democrats used their simple majority to fight off almost 30 Republican amendments to the bill of health care fixes in a marathon session lasting from Wednesday into Thursday morning.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.