Posts Tagged ‘Max Baucus

25
Mar
10

Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

NEWS
Health care ‘fix-it’ bill up for Senate debate

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Democratic senators ripped their Republican counterparts for forcing cancellations of hearings throughout the Senate on Wednesday, claiming that the GOP is needlessly blocking essential national security business.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill both complained that Republicans kept them from holding their hearings on budget requests for the military’s Pacific and strategic and police training contracts in Afghanistan.

Either party in the Senate is allowed to object to holding hearings, as Senate rules require a unanimous consent request for hearings to be held after 2 p.m. Most of these unanimous consent requests aren’t even noticed on any given day, but Republicans have been objecting to these requests, essentially shutting down committee work.

“It is astounding to me that the Republicans have decided to take this course of action. There’s no point to it. It does not accomplish their goals of stopping health care reform. All it can do is stop us from carrying out our duties to provide for the security of our country,” Levin said.

Generals from U.S. Pacific Command, Strategic Command and U.S. Forces Korea posted overseas flew to Washington for their annual update to the Armed Services committee, and Levin said his staff is working to reschedule a hearing for Friday but that it is unclear whether the generals will be able to stay that long.

Levin said he approached Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) Tuesday night at a meeting with senators and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alerting him of the importance of the hearing and asking for assistance in ensuring the committee could meet. “He told me he’d look into it,” Levin said.

McCaskill, who chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, stepped up the criticism of the McConnell, saying that although he might not be the senator blocking the committee hearings, it’s well within his purview to stop it.

“If he’s a strong enough leader to keep all of his members in the corral on some of the things he’s kept them in the corral on in the past few months–surely, he’s a strong enough leader to say we’re not going to stop hearings on police training contracts in Afghanistan and commanders who travel halfway across the world to testify on behalf our United States military,” McCaskill said of McConnell.

McCaskill went on to say that the rule that allows members to block committee proceedings is “dumb” and “antiquated” and that although the “buck stops with the Republican leader… at a minimum, they owe the American people an answer as to who is responsible.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is pushing to strike so-called “sweetheart deals” such as an extra $300 million in Medicaid funds for the state of Louisiana. Critics have labeled the deal the “Louisiana Purchase.”

Democrats have dismissed the GOP proposals as little more than politically motivated obstructionism meant to derail the deal.

Republicans are “not serious about helping this bill,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said Wednesday. They are concerned only with “throwing roadblocks in front of anything we do.”

Reid said Senate Democrats “feel very comfortable and confident” that the package of changes as currently drafted will pass.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Tuesday he didn’t think the Senate would change the bill, but if it did, the House would be prepared to vote on the revised bill and send it to Obama.

After a White House meeting Monday night with Senate Democratic leaders and Obama, a senior Democratic source said they believe some portions of the fixes bill may be ruled out of order because they violate the complicated legislative rules governing the process. The source would not specify the potential problems identified at the meeting.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said one or two potential problems were identified, but he said they were minor.

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18
Mar
10

Dems sweeten health bill, set showdown Sunday vote

NEWS
Dems sweeten health bill, set showdown Sunday vote

Thursday, March 18 2010

President Barack Obama again postponed his trip to Indonesia and Australia, this time putting it off until June so that he can be in Washington as Democrats in Congress try to pass a health care reform bill, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced Thursday.

Obama had already delayed his trip once and was planning to leave Sunday, but the House health care vote now is expected Sunday as well. Gibbs said the president didn’t want to risk having to cancel at the last minute.

“Passage of health care reform is of paramount importance, and the president is determined to see this battle through,” Gibbs said during the daily press briefing. “The president believes right now the place for him is to be in Washington to see this through.”

Postponing a presidential trip overseas is a dramatic step, and the move — decided on by Obama at 9:45 a.m. Thursday, official said — speaks to the importance health reform has taken on for the president. A trip overseas at such a critical moment could have left him somewhat out of the picture at what could prove to be a signature moment of his presidency, if the House can pass reform this weekend as Democratic leaders expect.

Gibbs insisted that the delay in the trip didn’t mean trouble for the House passing reform. “The president still believes we will have the votes,” he said.

But House leaders say they’re still short of the 216 votes needed to pass reform in the House. That effort got a boost Thursday when the Congressional Budget Office said the bill, which will cost $940 billion over 10 years, would reduce the deficit over the next 10 and 20 years. After the House acts, the Senate also must act to pass a cleanup bill, probably sometime next week.

Obama must sign the House-Senate bill into law before the Senate can pass the cleanup bill.

News about the trip postponement came just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ending a news conference. As she left the room, she said: “I’m glad. I like having him here.”

She suggested he was staying because the Senate will take up the bill next week.

“This is historical. I’m sure he wants to be here for the history,” Pelosi said.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also is happy the president is staying.

“He may have to twist some arms. He may have to talk to some people. His personal presence helps.”

The Senate will take up the bill soon after House passage, probably Tuesday, aides said.

The overseas trip promises to be an emotional one. Obama was planning to visit Indonesia, where he lived for four years as a child. On Thursday, Obama called the leader of Indonesia and plans to soon call the Australian prime minister, Gibbs said.

“We greatly regret the delay in the trip,” he said.

While pushing back an official overseas trip is a personal first for Obama, it is hardly new to the presidency. President George W. Bush pushed back to July 2003 a major Africa trip the White House had scheduled for January 2003 due to a variety of considerations, according to CBS’s Mark Knoller, who keeps a meticulous tally of presidential statistics.

Bush also postponed a trip to Canada in the spring of 2003, in run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. President Bill Clinton also pushed back international trips. He sent Vice President Al Gore in his place to an APEC Summit in Malaysia.

President Ronald Reagan once cancelled a trip to Indonesia citing the need to remain in Washington to deal with the budget and other issues. President George H.W. Bush postponed a trip to Australia amid criticism of his international travel while Americans suffered in a down economy.

Gibbs said the delay was unavoidable. Unless the president left “extremely early” Sunday afternoon, the trip would not have been feasible and putting it off further seemed the best option when staff reviewed his schedule Wednesday night, Gibbs said..

“It just at that point seemed obvious to us that the best course of business was to reschedule,” he said.

The White House is not concerned about possible diplomatic repercussions.

“Each of these two countries understands what the president has been working on, what he’s involved in and the importance of him seeing it through,” Gibbs said.

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