US President Barack Obama on Sunday urged Senate Democrats to work out their differences on healthcare reform and pass what will be the most significant social legislation in decades.
Obama met with party members during a Senate session as Democratic leaders push to pass major healthcare reform this month, a top domestic priority for Obama.
Senate Democratic leaders are struggling to resolve differences over a proposed new government-run public insurance plan and abortion language in an effort to gather the votes needed to overcome Republican opposition.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who played a major role in writing the healthcare overhaul, predicted the legislation would pass. Obama told senators the public would reward Democrats for decades to come if they pass what will be the most significant social legislation since Congress enacted Social Security in 1935, Baucus said.
Vice President Joe Biden joined the closed-door session.
“It’s very easy to get wrapped around the axle and forget what this is all about,” said Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, who played a significant role in developing the bill that aims to rein in soaring healthcare costs and expand coverage to more than 30 million people who now have no insurance.
Republicans uniformly oppose the bill, saying it would bring too much government intrusion into the US$2.5 trillion healthcare system. They are urging far more modest measures that aim to reduce premiums by limiting medical malpractice law suits and allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. States now regulate health insurance markets.
Meanwhile, the Senate continued to work through the amendments to the legislation. It failed to pass an amendment by Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln that would have put new limits on tax deductions healthcare insurance companies could take for executive pay. The amendment would have put the limit at US$400,000. The legislation as it now stands limits the deduction at US$500,000.
A majority of senators, 56, voted for the amendment, but it needed 60 votes to pass.
The Senate may have tackled the controversial abortion issue yesterday. Some anti-abortion senators want to make sure that government subsidies are not used to purchase policies that provide abortion services.
Abortion rights supporters are worried that language being considered would bar all policies, even those purchased without subsidies, from covering legal abortion services.
The House of Representatives passed healthcare reform early last month and Senate Democrats are racing to finish their version of the bill before the end of this month. The two chambers would have to work out their differences before a final bill can be sent to Obama to be signed into law.
Democrats have little room for error. They control exactly 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, the number needed to overcome Republican opposition.
A group of moderate and liberal Democrats met on Sunday in hopes of reaching a compromise on the proposed public option. Some senators have said they will vote against the bill if it includes a public option.
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
LONGSTANDING NEUTRALITY: The US request came as it vied for influence in Southeast Asia with China, but Indonesia has never let foreign militaries operate there Indonesia this year rejected a proposal by the US to allow its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes to land and refuel there, four senior Indonesian officials familiar with the matter have said. US officials made multiple “high-level” approaches in July and August to Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers before Indonesian President Joko Widodo rebuffed the request, the officials said. Representatives for Indonesia’s president and defense minister, the US Department of State’s Office of Press Relations and the US embassy in Jakarta did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the US Department of Defense and Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
COVID-19 UNDER CONTROL: The two prime ministers agreed to ease entry bans, and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, yesterday agreed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region. In talks in Hanoi, Suga and Phuc set up a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such agreements to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations and sustain its own defense industry. Suga said that his four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia would be key to pursuing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said that he has no problem with being held responsible for the many killings under his crackdown on drugs, and that he is ready to face charges that could land him in jail, but not charges of crimes against humanity. Duterte’s televised remarks were among his clearest acknowledgement of the prospects that he could face a deluge of criminal charges for the bloody campaign he launched after taking office in the middle of 2016. Police have reported that at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since