Obama makes fresh push for healthcare reform

08:27, March 04, 2010      

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about moving forward into the final stage of the health insurance reform debate at the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, March 3, 2010. Obama urged on Wednesday the Congress to move swiftly toward votes on the legislation. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)


U.S. President Barack Obama made his fresh push for a sweeping healthcare overhaul bill on Wednesday, saying the renewed proposal "incorporates the best ideas" from both parties, while calling for a "up-or-down" vote.

Bracing Republican ideas

The latest proposal reflected "an approach that has been debated and changed and I believe improved over the last year," Obama said in a speech at the White House on Wednesday when putting forward a renewed proposal for healthcare overhaul.

"It incorporates the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans - - including some of the ideas that Republicans offered during the health care summit."


U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about moving forward into the final stage of the health insurance reform debate at the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, March 3, 2010. Obama urged on Wednesday the Congress to move swiftly toward votes on the legislation. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)


The Obama administration has changed its approach for healthcare reform after Democrats lost their Senate supermajority in a Massachusetts special election, in which Democrats were deprived of the 60th vote needed to stop a filibuster.

To gain Republicans' support, the president unveiled a 10-year, 950-billion-dollar proposal before the highlighted bipartisan summit last week, claiming to have braced Republican suggestions.

In a letter addressed to Congressional leaders on Tuesday, Obama again reached out to Republicans by identifying four specific areas he'd like to seek agreement with Republicans, including establishing "health courts" to resolve medical malpractice claims and encouraging the use of Health Savings Accounts that get favorable tax treatment.

However, these efforts gained no plaudits from Republicans, who insist on a start-from-scratch approach.

Up-or-down vote

"I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare reform," said Obama.

"It deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts -- all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority."

Without directly mentioning the word "reconciliation," Obama was suggesting that the Democratic controlled chambers would use this legislative maneuver, which only needs a simple majority in the Senate, to keep Republicans from talking the bill to death by filibuster.

Obama said he has asked leaders in both Houses of Congress to " finish their work and schedule a vote in the next few weeks," and he is to "do everything" in his power to make the case for reform.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs made it more explicit after the president's speech.

"This has been laid out in a way that provides us the maximum flexibility to get done," he said when referring to the use of reconciliation.

Republicans' anger

Republicans made a counterattack immediately after Obama's speech.

House Republican Leader John Boehner dismissed Obama's renewed proposal as "sprinkling a few sensible Republican proposals onto a fundamentally-flawed 2,000-page bill."

"Americans do not want a trillion-dollar government takeover of health care stuffed with tax hikes, Medicare cuts, and giveaways to Washington special interests," he added.

Appearing to have known this hitting back, Obama in his speech rejected the idea of government's takeover of healthcare.

"There are some who have suggested scrapping our system of private insurance and replacing it with government-run health care. Though many other countries have such a system, in America it would be neither practical nor realistic," he said.

Republican Senator John Cornyn also made his point against Democrats' approach. "The American people have made it abundantly clear that they do not want a job-killing, one-size-fits-all, 2.3 trillion dollars, Washington takeover of our health care system," Cornyn said in a statement.

Source: Xinhua
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