Capitol Hillbillies

Government health plan would pay for abortions

Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.

Federal funds for abortions are now restricted to cases involving rape, incest or danger to the health of the mother. Abortion opponents say those restrictions should carry over to any health insurance sold through a new marketplace envisioned under the legislation, an exchange where people would choose private coverage or the public plan.

Abortion rights supporters say that would have the effect of denying coverage for abortion to millions of women who now have it through workplace insurance and are expected to join the exchange.

Insurers lay out cash to buy Congress

As the nation faces a political showdown over health-insurance reform, insurers worried that an overhaul could hurt their bottom line are funneling a wave of cash to members of Congress.

Health and accident insurers and HMOs have spent more than $40 million on current members of Congress over the past 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which analyzed Federal Election Commission data.

They’ve also spent an additional half-billion dollars lobbying during the decade.

Insurers ramped up their contributions in 2008 when health-care reform emerged as a major campaign issue. So far, the insurance industry has given $3.9 million this year.

Sotomayor headed for historic confirmation

Judge Sonia Sotomayor was expected to win Senate confirmation as early as Thursday as the first Hispanic US Supreme Court justice, in a major victory for President Barack Obama.

The 55-year-old appeals court judge was to become the third woman to sit on the bench that serves as the final arbiter of the US Constitution and is called upon to decide bitter feuds on volatile issues like gun rights and abortion.

Support from all of Obama’s Democratic allies and a handful of Republicans meant the outcome was never seriously in doubt — though the final days brought increasingly harsh debate over the place of race in the nomination.

Democrats grow impatient over health care

With President Barack Obama’s political fortunes on the line, Democrats in Congress vowed on Monday to push healthcare reform through the Senate with or without Republican support.

"No matter what happens we are going to enact healthcare reform by the end of the year," said Senator Charles Schumer, one of the Democrats who has been working with Republicans to craft a bipartisan plan in that chamber.

Obama has made overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system this year his top domestic priority, saying it is central to long-term economic recovery, and its success or failure could define his presidency.

Senators shrug off NRA threats

The National Rifle Association’s threat to punish senators who vote for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been met with a shrug by Democrats from conservative-leaning states and some Republicans who are breaking with their party to support her.

Senators got ‘special’ loans

Two influential Senate committee chairmen were told they were getting special VIP deals when they applied for mortgages, an official who handled their loans told Congress in closed-door testimony. Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd and Kent Conrad had denied knowing they were getting discounts when they negotiated their loan terms.

Senate dumps public option on health care reform

A bipartisan group of senators is closing in on a health care compromise that omits key Democratic priorities but seeks to hold down costs, as lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol labor to deliver sweeping health legislation to President Barack Obama.

After weeks of secretive talks, three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee were edging closer to a compromise that excludes a requirement many congressional Democrats seek for large businesses to offer coverage to their workers. Nor would there be a provision for a government insurance option, despite Obama’s support for such a plan, officials said.

Obama needs Republican votes on health care

President Barack Obama’s push to overhaul health care needs Republican votes, lawmakers from both parties say.

Democratic and GOP officials acknowledged Sunday that Obama’s ambitious plan would not pass without the aid of a doubtful GOP, whose members are almost united against the White House effort.

Opponents relish health care bill delay

August means beaches and barbecues. And for some, a chance to rally the troops for this fall’s health care showdown.

Senate postponement of work on health care until September gives interest groups on both sides an entire month to whip up supporters, and pushes off crucial votes on the overhaul effort until fall — when people are likely to refocus on the issue.