A panicky White House and Democratic allies scrambled Sunday for a plan to salvage their hard-fought health care package in case a Republican wins Tuesday's Senate race in Massachusetts, which would enable the GOP to block further Senate action.
The likeliest scenario would require persuading House Democrats to accept a bill the Senate passed last month, despite their objections to several parts.
Aides consulted Sunday amid fears that Republican Scott Brown will defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy's seat. A Brown win would give the GOP 41 Senate votes, enough to filibuster and block final passage of the House-Senate compromise on health care now being crafted.
Members of the U.S. Congress begin 2010 scrambling to reduce the double-digit U.S. jobless rate, knowing their own jobs will be at stake in the November election if they fail to deliver.
With about one in 10 Americans out of work, the highest percentage in 25 years, President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats -- who control the Senate and House of Representatives -- are making job creation their top priority.
"Americans have a lot of angst, a lot of anger, a lot of fear," said House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer. "Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, all polls show that jobs are the major issue."
For much of her campaign, Martha Coakley steered clear of the Kennedy mystique, methodically crafting a low-key campaign to fill the late Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat the way the seasoned prosecutor would build a case in court.
But with the wheels threatening to come off the campaign and a double-digit lead eroding to a dead heat in the polls, Coakley, the state's attorney general, is banking that a deep-seated loyalty to Kennedy among Massachusetts Democrats will be enough to propel her to victory.
Coakley has publicly accepted the endorsement of Kennedy's widow, Vicki Kennedy, and nephew, the former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy. Vicki Kennedy has also made a fundraising appeal and cut a television ad on Coakley's behalf.
President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats stand within days if not hours of striking final deals on historic health care legislation after key labor unions won concessions and pledged their support.
"We are on the doorstep of accomplishing something that Washington has been talking about since Teddy Roosevelt was president, and that is reforming health care and health insurance here in America," Obama told rank-and-file House Democrats on Thursday during a visit to the Capitol complex.
A House committee probing bailout deals has subpoenaed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for correspondence from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other officials.
The House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee is examining New York Fed decisions that funneled billions of dollars to big banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.
Geithner was president of the New York Fed at the time. He approved decisions involving the money from the bailout of failed insurer American International Group Inc., according to an earlier watchdog audit.
On Wednesday, committee chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. formally invited Geithner to testify this month about his role in the AIG bailout and the decision not to disclose what banks benefited.
Short of rationing, lawmakers have pulled nearly every available cost-control lever in the sweeping health care overhaul President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are pushing to finish.
Will it work?
It may take 10 years or more to find out. Costs are expected first to go up, as tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans get coverage and start going for checkups, mammograms and MRIs. Over time, if the plan works, health care inflation would slow. With the magic of compounding, shaving even 1 or 2 percentage points a year from rising spending rates would translate into big savings across the economy.
The Republican Party chief called on Senator Harry Reid on Sunday to step down as Senate majority leader over racial comments about President Barack Obama, while Democrats tried to put the issue behind them.Read More
Reid, a key figure in pushing Obama's agenda through Congress, apologized to the president on Saturday over remarks published in a new book calling Obama a "light-skinned" black man "with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."
Both Obama and Reid are Democrats.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Reid should step aside as Senate majority leader, saying if a Republican made the same remarks Democrats would be "screaming for his head."
Senior House Democrats have largely abandoned hopes of including a government-run insurance option in the final compromise health care bill taking shape, according to several officials, and are pushing for other measures to rein in private insurers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democrats told President Barack Obama in recent meetings they want the legislation to strip the insurance industry of a long-standing exemption from federal antitrust laws, officials said. That provision is in the House-passed measure, but was omitted from the bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve.
They also want the final measure to include a House-passed proposal for a nationwide insurance exchange, to be regulated by the federal government, where consumers could shop for private coverage. The Senate bill calls for a state-based system of exchanges.
Additionally, House Democrats want to require insurers to spend a minimum amount of premium income on benefits, thereby limiting what is available for salaries, bonuses, advertising and other items. The House bill sets the floor at 85 percent; the Senate-passed measure lowers it to 80 percent for policies sold to small groups and individuals.
Two longtime Senate Democrats suddenly abandoned re-election bids, and so did a Democratic swing-state governor, underscoring the perilous political environment for President Barack Obama's party as anti-incumbent sentiment ripples across the nation. But stunning as they were, the retirements weren't as bad as they might have seemed for the Democrats.
Freed from his liberal base and moneyed donors, Sen. Chris Dodd can now cast himself as the honest broker in negotiations over a massive Wall Street regulation bill.
In deciding Wednesday not to seek re-election and to retire at the end of this year, the five-term Connecticut Democrat, who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has the latitude to cut a deal with Republicans without fear of alienating liberal voters, according to political strategists from both parties and financial sector lobbyists.
At the same time, his decision also dilutes the influence of financial sector executives and hedge fund managers who have regularly filled Dodd's campaign treasury.