Archives for Capitol Hillbillies

Senate gears up for second crucial vote on health care

One 60-vote hurdle down, two to go for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in the Senate.

The second vote was set for early Tuesday morning as exhausted but happy Democratic leaders pushed the landmark legislation toward passage before Christmas.

The outcome of the vote to overcome GOP opposition to the 2,074-page legislation is preordained. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has herded 58 Democrats and two independents into line through a combination of wheedling, cajoling and dispensing special deals. The strategy has Republicans irate but Reid makes no apologies.

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Nelson: Health care bill faces public backlash

It was the concern of Nebraska's Republican governor over expanded Medicaid costs in the proposed Senate health care overhaul bill that led to a compromise to cover his state's estimated $45 million share over a decade, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson said Sunday.

Gov. Dave Heineman "contacted me and he said this is another unfunded federal mandate and it's going to stress the state budget, and I agreed with him," said the Nebraska Democrat, who was himself a Nebraska governor in the 1990s. "I said to the leader and others that this is something that has to be fixed. I didn't participate in the way it was fixed."

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Health care bill clears hurdle on party line vote

Sen. Harry Reid Democrats in the Senate won a crucial test vote on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, putting them on track for passage before Christmas of the historic legislation to remake the nation's medical system and cover 30 million uninsured.

All 58 Democrats and the Senate's two independents held together early Monday against unanimous Republican opposition, providing the exact 60-40 margin needed to shut down a threatened GOP filibuster.

The vote came shortly after 1 a.m. with the nation's capital blanketed in snow, the unusual timing made necessary in order to get to a final vote by Christmas Eve presuming Republicans stretch out the debate as much as the rules allow. Despite the late hour and a harshly partisan atmosphere, Democrats' spirits were high.
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Senate passes ‘must-do’ bill on defense, jobless

The Senate cleared its year-end plate of some must-do work Saturday as it passed a critical budget bill that blends money for the Pentagon with additional help for the jobless.

The early morning 88-10 vote, taken as a blizzard buffeted the Capitol, permitted lawmakers to resume their acrimonious debate on health care, which Democrats now expect to finish by Christmas. The spending measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

It wraps up work on perhaps Congress' most fundamental job: funding the annual budgets of Cabinet agencies and the rest of the government.

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Senate Democrats close in on 60 votes

Senate Democrats appear within reach of the 60 votes necessary to pass President Barack Obama's health care legislation after a long year of struggle and a final burst of deadline bargaining with holdout Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Emerging from marathon talks with Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House officials late Friday night, Nelson said "real progress" had been made toward his call for greater restrictions on abortion within the legislation.

Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to go public a final package of changes in the long-debated legislation on Saturday "and is confident that it will prevail," his spokesman, Jim Manley, said in a late-night statement.
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Most Americans rate Congress low on ethics

Gallup poll

For the first time in Gallup's annual Honesty and Ethics of Professions poll, a majority of Americans -- 55% -- say the honesty and ethical standards of "members of Congress" are low or very low -- slightly worse than "senators," whose ethics are rated low by 49%. By contrast, 83% of Americans say nurses have either very high or high ethical standards, positioning them at the top of Gallup's 2009 ranking of various professions.

The percentage of Americans now believing that members of Congress have low ethics is up from 46% in 2008 and 45% in 2007, and has more than doubled since the start of the decade -- rising from 21% in November 2000 to 55% today.
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Other ‘must-pass’ legislation clears key hurdle

Must-pass legislation that wraps up the bulk of the remaining congressional agenda besides health care easily cleared a key Senate hurdles early Friday morning.

Anchored by a $626 billion Pentagon funding bill, the measure also carries short-term extensions of unemployment benefits, highway and transit funding, key pieces of the anti-terror Patriot Act and prevents doctors from shouldering a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments.

The timing of the 63-33 post-midnight tally — which blocked GOP stalling tactics and forced a final vote to clear the bill for President Barack Obama no later than Saturday — was governed more by the brawl over health care than significant opposition to the defense measure or its additional baggage.

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Democrat vs. Democrat: The soap opera continues

It's one of the oldest spectator sports in American politics: Democrat vs. Democrat. Welcome to the health care overhaul edition.

With just days remaining to prove that they can meet a self-imposed Christmas deadline and pass President Barack Obama's signature initiative through the Senate, Democrats seeking a rendezvous with history instead detoured to an intraparty brawl.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was poised to release the latest version of the Senate legislation as early as Friday, but it was unclear what kind of reception he'd get. Labor leaders said the bill was soft on the insurance industry, and former party chairman Howard Dean said he'd vote against it if he were a senator.


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Graham: An odd champion for climate change action

Sen. Lindsey GrahamSen. Lindsey Graham makes an unlikely champion for action on climate change.

The South Carolina Republican has joined forces with Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to drum up support for a bill that would put a price on heat-trapping pollution.

Graham's position has irked just about everybody. He has been censured by Republicans back home for supporting a bill that would clamp down on greenhouse gases. Environmentalists have criticized his push for nuclear energy, more oil drilling — and most recently his support of a GOP effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Some Democrats are just befuddled.
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