Capitol Hillbillies

Catholics flex their muscle in health care debate

Catholic bishops have emerged as a formidable force in the health care overhaul fight, using their clout with millions of Catholics and working behind the scenes in Congress to get strong abortion restrictions into the House bill.

They don’t spend a dime on what is legally defined as lobbying, but lawmakers and insiders recognize that the bishops’ voices matter — and they move votes. Representatives for the bishops were in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol suite negotiating with top officials last Friday evening as they reached final terms of the agreement. Earlier in the day, Pelosi, a Catholic and an abortion rights supporter, had been on the phone to Rome with Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Washington’s former archbishop, on the subject.

Bill Clinton weighs in on health care reform

Former President Bill Clinton knows just how high the political stakes are in the fight to overhaul America’s health care system.

His failed attempt to revamp the delivery of medical care contributed to the Republican takeover of the House and Senate in 1994.

Fast forward to 2009, where health care’s white-hot spotlight now shines on the Senate. Clinton is still in the picture, and he’s expected to speak to Senate Democrats about health care legislation during their weekly caucus Tuesday, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his schedule.

House health care celebration may be short-lived

After a landmark win in the House of Representatives, President Barack Obama’s push for healthcare reform faces a difficult path in the Senate amid divisions in his own Democratic Party on how to proceed.

On a 220-215 vote, including the support of one Republican and opposition from 39 Democrats, the House backed a bill late on Saturday that would expand coverage to nearly all Americans and bar insurance practices such as refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The battle now shifts to the Senate, where work on Obama’s top domestic priority has been stalled for weeks as Democratic leader Harry Reid searches for an approach that can win the 60 votes he needs to overcome Republican procedural hurdles.

House health care plan ain’t selling in Senate

Don’t look for the Senate to quickly follow the House on health care overhaul.

A government health insurance plan included in the House bill is unacceptable to a few Democratic moderates who hold the balance of power in the Senate. They’re locked in a battle with liberals, with the fate of President Barack Obama’s signature issue at stake.

If a government plan is part of the deal, “as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters.

“The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

Health care victory a narrow, partisan win

The House of Representatives narrowly endorsed on Saturday the biggest healthcare overhaul in decades, giving President Barack Obama a crucial victory in a battle that now moves to the Senate.

By a 220-215 vote, including the support of one Republican, the House backed a bill that would expand coverage to nearly all Americans and bar insurance practices such as refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

But in the Senate, work on a healthcare bill — Obama’s top domestic priority — has stalled for weeks as Democratic leader Harry Reid searches for an approach that can win the 60 votes he needs.

Any differences between the Senate and House bills ultimately will have to be reconciled, and a final bill passed again by both before going to Obama for his signature.

Health care vote gives Obama a big win

The US House of Representatives has approved the broadest overhaul of US health care in four decades, handing President Barack Obama a hard-fought victory for his top domestic priority.

Heeding Obama’s appeal to “answer the call of history,” lawmakers late Saturday capped 12 hours of bitter debate with a 220-215 vote.

The bill amounts to a 10-year, trillion-dollar plan to extend health coverage to some 36 million Americans who lack it now.

“Tonight, in an historic vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would finally make real the promise of quality, affordable health care for the American people,” Obama said in a statement.

House passes health care plan on party-line vote

The Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed landmark health care reform legislation, handing President Barack Obama a hard won victory on his signature domestic priority.

Republicans were nearly unanimous in opposing the plan that would expand coverage to tens of millions of Americans who lack it and place tough new restrictions on the insurance industry.

The 220-215 vote late Saturday cleared the way for the Senate to begin a long-delayed debate on the issue that has come to overshadow all others in Congress.

A triumphant Speaker Nancy Pelosi compared the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later.

House votes to ban abortion coverage in health plan

A bipartisan House coalition voted Saturday to prohibit coverage of abortions in a new government-run health care plan that Democrats would establish to compete with private insurers.

The 240-194 vote on an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., was a blow to liberals, who would have allowed the Obama administration and its successors to decide whether abortions would be covered by the government plan. Sixty-four Democrats joined 176 Republicans in favor of the prohibition.

Stupak’s measure also would bar anyone getting federal health subsidies from purchasing private insurance polices that included abortion coverage.

“Let us stand together on principle — no public funding for abortions, no public funding for insurance policies that pay for abortions,” Stupak urged fellow lawmakers before the vote.

Decision day on Capitol Hill for health care

President Barack Obama is traveling to Capitol Hill on Saturday to try to close the sale on his signature health care overhaul, facing a make-or-break vote in the House certain to be seen as a test of his presidency.

Obama scheduled a late-morning visit with House Democrats convening a rare Saturday session on legislation to remake the U.S. health care system, extending coverage to tens of millions now uninsured and banning insurance company practices such as denial of coverage based on pre-existing medical problems.

Late Friday, House Democrats cleared an abortion-related impasse blocking a vote and officials expressed optimism they had finally lined up the support needed to pass Obama’s signature issue.

The push is on for health care reform votes

House Democrats are scrambling to secure enough support to pass President Barack Obama’s historic health overhaul initiative, working to soothe last-minute concerns from rank-and-file Democrats ahead of a make-or-break vote.

Voting is set for Saturday on the 10-year, $1.2 trillion legislation that embraces Obama’s goals of extending health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and putting tough new restrictions on insurance companies.

Obama was set to make a personal appeal to the Democratic rank and file in a visit Friday to Capitol Hill. That was called off late Thursday after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and rescheduled for Saturday.