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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Can Obama unify Democrats after health care fight?

President Barack Obama strongly backed the Senate’s version of sweeping legislation to remake US health care, as the bill drew fire ahead of its all-but-certain passage on Christmas Eve.

Obama told the Washington Post in an interview he was “not just grudgingly supporting the bill” and that the measure achieved “95 percent” of the goals he laid out during his 2008 White House bid and a major speech in September.

“We don’t feel that the core elements to help the American people have been compromised in any significant way,” the US president said. “I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved.”

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Abortion could still kill health care deal

Democrats are close enough to taste victory in their quest to remake the nation’s health care system, but differences between the House and Senate on abortion could still blow it all up.

The House health care bill would bar any health plan that receives federal money from covering abortions. Under the less restrictive Senate language, plans that get federal money could cover abortion as long as customers pay premiums for the procedure separately with their own money, and the premium payments are kept in a separate account.

“Something’s going to have to give,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., author of the abortion language in the House.

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Health care: Lots of pain before any gain

The costs of health care reform being pushed through Congress by Democrats will be felt long before the benefits.

Proposed taxes and fees on upper-income earners, insurers, even tanning parlors, take effect quickly. So would Medicare cuts.

Benefits, such as subsidies for lower middle-income households, consumer protections for all, and eliminating the prescription coverage gap for seniors, come gradually.

“There’s going to be an expectations gap, no question about that,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “People are going to see their premiums and out-of-pocket costs go up before the tangible benefits kick in.”

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Bill creates new health insurance program

A new government insurance program that would help the elderly and disabled stay in their homes is headed for passage in the U.S. Senate’s sweeping healthcare revamp despite doubts about its viability and cost.

The measure has not received the intense scrutiny focused on a proposed government-run medical coverage plan, which has been jettisoned from the Senate’s healthcare bill and is unlikely to be restored in final legislation.

But the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, which was championed by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, is a significant program that supporters say is long overdue and critics say could add to the federal treasury’s long-term debt problems.

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Republicans cave on health care vote stall

Jubilant Democrats are ready to push President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul past one last 60-vote hurdle to final Christmas Eve passage, and Republicans concede they’re powerless to stop it.

“It looks obvious that that’s going to happen,” conceded Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, after Democrats triumphed on the second of three 60-vote procedural tallies over unanimous GOP opposition.

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs declared, “Health care reform is not a matter of if, health care reform now is a matter of when.”

Obama himself said the Senate legislation accomplishes 95 percent of what he wanted. “Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill,” the president told The Washington Post.

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Christmas Eve vote set to raise debt limit

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday set a Christmas Eve vote on final congressional approval of a bill to provide a two-month increase in the federal debt limit.

The measure, passed last week by the House of Representatives, would increase the debt limit, now at $12.1 trillion, by $290 billion.

Senate Democrats may approve the measure largely by themselves because most, if not all, Republicans are expected to vote against it, Republican aides said. Democrats control the Senate, 60-40.

Republicans have objected to raising the debt limit, accusing Democrats of reckless spending. Democrats counter by noting that the debt exploded during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush, which ended in January.

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