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November 8, 2009

Health Care Reform: House Vote Brings Us One Step Closer To Success

us-congress-building  This morning, we are one step closer to achieving health care reform in the United States of America.  Can I get a “hip, hip!”

Nancy Pelosi and The House voted 220-215 on Saturday night on health care legislation that would provide way past due relief to Americans struggling to buy or hold on to health insurance.  One Republican, Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana voted with the Democrats.

Some Democrats said they voted for the legislation so they could seek improvements in it. “This bill will get better in the Senate,” said Representative Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee who has been outspoken in his criticism of some provisions of the bill but decided to support it. “If we kill it here, it won’t have a chance to get better.”  “Our plan is not perfect, but it is a good start toward providing affordable health care to all Americans,” said Representative Peter A. DeFazio D-Oregon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and The Senate still have to bring their health care plan to the floor for debate. Once their decision is made then the House and Senate will bargain and hopefully reach a deal on a final bill that will go to President Obama for signing.

The health care legislature passed last night will be paid for through new fees and taxes along with strategic cuts to Medicare.  The plan will extend coverage to 36 million people now without insurance while creating a government health insurance program. It would end insurance company practices like not covering pre-existing conditions or dropping people when they become ill.  Most employers would have to provide coverage or pay a tax penalty of up to 8 percent of their payroll. The bill would significantly expand Medicaid and would offer subsidies to help moderate-income people buy insurance from private companies or from a government insurance plan. It would also set up a national insurance exchange where people could shop for coverage.

“We did what we promised the American people we would do,” said Representative Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland and the majority leader, but he also warned, “Much work remains.”

The successful vote came after President Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to make a personal appeal for lawmakers to “answer the call of history” and support the bill.

During the private meeting with Democrats in the Cannon Caucus Room, the President acknowledged the political difficulty of supporting major legislation in the face of unanimous Republican opposition and tough criticism from conservatives.

Lawmakers credited President Obama with converting a final few holdouts during his appearance at a closed-door meeting with Democrats just hours before the vote. Democratic officials said that the President’s conversation Saturday with Representative Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine, was crucial in winning one final vote.

After the vote, Mr. Obama issued a statement praising the House and calling on the Senate to follow suit. “I am absolutely confident it will and I look forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year.”

But don’t forget, there’s lots of work still to be done.  We will have to make calls, send letters and send emails to our Senators in the upcoming weeks so that they will pass a health care plan.

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June 20, 2008

What Does Immunity For The Telecoms Mean?

The U.S. House of Representatives gave George Bush what he wanted by approving legislation that would continue the controversial surveillance program at the National Security Agency (“NSA”) with limited court oversight at the same time the bill will immunize telecommunications carriers that participated in the program from lawsuits.

The House on Friday voted 293 to 129 to approve the bill. Democrats have the majority in the House so why would the Democrats pass this bill?  Is Congress being complacent or do they know something from their classified briefings that we don’t?

The bill would extend the NSA surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the U.S., while giving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) an opportunity to review Bush administration requests for wide-ranging surveillance powers. The bill, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, allows the NSA to receive blanket surveillance orders covering multiple suspects of terrorism and other crimes.

The compromise also sends the dozens of outstanding lawsuits against telecom carriers for their alleged participation in the NSA program to a district court, which will review whether they should be dismissed. The lawsuits would be thrown out if telecom companies can show that the U.S. government issued them orders for the surveillance that were presented as lawful.

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