Archives for Capitol Hillbillies

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.

Read More

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.


Read More

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.
Read More

The death of health care reform

The liberals' longtime dream of a government-run health care system for all died Wednesday in the Senate, but Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed it will return when the realization dawns that private insurance companies "are no longer needed."

The proposal's demise came as Senate Democratic leaders and the White House sought agreement with Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., to become the 60th supporter of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul — the number needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Read More

Health care ‘reform’ slogs towards murky end

The U.S. Senate staggered toward the healthcare finish line on Wednesday, as Republicans used new tactics to delay debate and a Democratic holdout remained uncommitted after meeting President Barack Obama.

With Democrats racing the clock to finish before Christmas, the slow-moving Senate healthcare debate ground to a complete halt for several hours as Republicans forced the reading of a 767-page amendment.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn invoked his right to require an amendment by independent Senator Bernie Sanders be read aloud by a Senate clerk -- a task that dragged on for more than three hours before Sanders pulled his amendment.

Read More

Congress tackles Medicare “doughnut hole”

It's an annual ordeal for many seniors living on a budget. Medicare's coverage gap for prescription drugs — $3,610 next year — has steadily gotten bigger since the benefit's inception. But if Democrats have their way on health care overhaul, the dreaded "doughnut hole" will shrink by $500 right away and go away altogether by 2019.

With the elderly worried that Medicare cuts in the health care bill will put the quality of their own care in jeopardy, Democrats belatedly are scrambling to convince them otherwise. Lawmakers are eager to make amends with a pivotal political constituency ahead of next year's midterm elections.

Read More

House pushes toward year-end finish

In a headlong rush to leave town for the year, the House is trying to clear its plate of legislation to finance the military, help the jobless and permit the government to run up more debt.

Democratic leaders also are touting a new $154 billion measure combining help for state and local governments and the unemployed with nearly $50 billion in spending on highways, housing and school repair as part of a year-end plan to create jobs. That measure was scheduled for a vote along with the other issues Wednesday, though the Senate won't act this year.

Much of Wednesday's action would simply punt a host of difficult issues into next year by extending for just two months expiring funding for highway and other infrastructure projects.

Read More

Time running out for health care ‘reform’

Health care reformHistory may be calling but time's running out to act by Christmas, so Senate Democrats are coming to terms with the idea they won't get everything they want from health care overhaul.

For the second time in less than two weeks, President Barack Obama cajoled restive Democrats on Tuesday, urging them not to lose perspective amid intense intraparty battles over government's role and reach in health care. The public plan liberals hoped for appeared dead in the Senate, as did a Medicare buy-in scheme offered as a fallback.
Read More

More compromises water down health care bill

Democratic senators were to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday to discuss health care reform, amid reports of new compromise likely to infuriate liberal lawmakers.

The Senate has been struggling to pass its own version of a health care overhaul amid tough divides within the Democratic caucus on the bill's language.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and several senior Democratic senators told reporters Monday evening that they were closer than ever to passing legislation.

Their renewed optimism came amid reports that a compromise designed to compensate for doing away with a government-backed "public option" health plan had been dropped after opposition from Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Read More

Ye gads! A $1.1 trillion spending bill

The Senate on Sunday passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for vast areas of the federal government, including health, education, law enforcement and veterans' programs.

The more-than-1,000-page package, one of the last essential chores of Congress this year, passed 57-35 and now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The weekend action underlined the legislative crush faced by Congress as it tries to wind up the year. After the vote, the Senate immediately returned to the debate on health care legislation that has consumed its time and energy for weeks. Senate Democrats hope to reach a consensus in the coming days on Obama's chief domestic priority.

Read More