Capitol Hillbillies

Dems to GOP: Where’s your plan?

Even as Republicans pummel President Barack Obama’s health care proposals, some GOP leaders worry their party is being hurt by a Democratic counterattack: Where is your plan?

Republican leaders chose not to draft their own comprehensive bill, focusing instead on attacking Democrats’ plans as too costly and bureaucratic. Some prominent Republicans now fear they are getting tagged as the “party of no,” and they want the GOP to offer more solutions to the nation’s health care problems.

Health care bill could hit House, Senate floors mid-month

Historic health care legislation could be on the floor of both houses of Congress as early as mid-October as Democrats work to answer President Barack Obama’s call for greater protections for those who have unreliable insurance or no coverage at all.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday the Senate debate could begin the week of Columbus Day, Oct. 12, even though lawmakers are scheduled to be on vacation at the time.

Democratic aides said the House was working on roughly the same timetable, although after months of missed deadlines, neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Reid would provide a detailed schedule.

Debate in the Senate could take weeks, compared with mere days in the House.

Reid angers fellow Democrats with Medicare ploy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moved swiftly to ensure that his home state of Nevada wouldn’t be hurt by Medicaid changes included in the health care reform bill moving through the Senate Finance Committee.

Now some of his Democratic colleagues are demanding the same treatment for their states.

“We have to make sure Colorado is treated fairly,” Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday.

“We’re going to take a look at the details, but if Colorado has a fair claim on being treated the same way Nevada has been, of course we’re going to ask to have that kind of treatment.”

Senate committee rejects public option

A Senate panel on Tuesday rejected a government-run “public” insurance option as part of a broad healthcare overhaul, handing insurers an early victory and setting the stage for a long fight over one of the bill’s most contentious issues.

The two votes in the Senate Finance Committee were the first of several battles expected in Congress over a public insurance option, a flashpoint in the raging debate over President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The panel’s Democratic chairman, Max Baucus, opposed both amendments and said Democrats could not muster the 60 Senate votes needed to clear Republican procedural hurdles and pass a healthcare reform bill if it includes the public option.

Long, nasty fight looms for health care reform

A sweeping health overhaul bill has survived a major challenge from the left, but onslaughts loom from the right on thorny issues including abortion and insurance coverage for illegal immigrants.

Liberal Democrats failed in two efforts Tuesday to include a government-run insurance option in the legislation before the Senate Finance Committee. Finance is the last of five congressional panels completing work on President Barack Obama’s No. 1 domestic priority, a top-to-bottom reshaping of the U.S. health care system to hold down costs and extend coverage to the uninsured.

Wall Street spending big to buy Congress

Wall Street has spent close to $11 million this year to buy votes in the Senate and the vote it covets most comes from New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer has pocketed $1.65 million in campaign contributions from the financial industry — more than twice the amount to other Democrats and 500 percent more than contributions to any Republican.

While spending by big business is down in recession-driven economy, it’s clear the boys with the bucks are counting on Democrats to save their bacon in the halls of Congress.

Senate Republicans take a hike on torture probe

Senate Republicans on Friday pulled out of a bipartisan investigation into controversial “war on terror” detentions and interrogations, including tactics widely condemned as torture.

The move by the opposition party dealt a sharp blow to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s efforts to find out exactly what methods were used when and whether they paid off — without prosecuting witnesses or agents thought to have committed abuses.

Senator Kit Bond, the panel’s top Republican, blamed Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation into alleged CIA abuse of detainees, which he said made it impossible for current or former CIA officials to work with the committee.

Republicans bash Democrats over health care bill

Republicans say Democrats have ignored the public’s concerns in drafting new health care legislation under debate in the Senate Finance Committee.

Democrats are giving the public anything but an “open, honest and bipartisan debate,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address.

The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional committees to take up health care legislation, which tops President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., negotiated with top Republicans on the panel for weeks before talks broke down. Baucus’ bill leaves out a primary demand of many Democrats — that reform include a government insurance option — and it has a lower price tag than other Democratic proposals.

Congressional aide gets probation for theft

A former executive assistant to California Rep. Loretta Sanchez was sentenced Friday to three years probation for stealing office funds to get herself pizza, groceries, airline tickets and an authorized bonus.

Caroline Valdez, a 28-year-old engaged mother from Arlington, Va., could have faced up to six months in prison for forging the Democratic congresswoman’s signature to get $6,000 in bonus salary in 2006 and using Sanchez’s House credit card for the personal expenses. But prosecutors supported Valdez’s request for probation, agreeing that she has accepted responsibility by pleading guilty and repaying what she stole.

Kirk named as interim replacement for Kennedy

Massachusetts on Thursday named a Democratic replacement to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, giving President Barack Obama a vital extra vote in his health care reform battle.

Governor Deval Patrick named Paul Kirk, 71, as an interim replacement to Kennedy, whose death last month left the Senate one vote short of a critical 60 votes needed to block any Republican efforts to stall debate on a health care bill.

The additional Senate vote is more needed than ever, as Obama fights to push health reform through a skeptical US Congress.

“This appointment is a profound honor,” said Kirk, making clear that his appointment was only temporary until new elections could be held.