Tales from the Trail

Healthcare critic Lieberman silenced in Senate

USA-HEALTHCARE/Senator Joe Lieberman, who has forced Democrats to jump through hoops on healthcare reform in recent weeks, was effectively told to be quiet and sit down on Thursday.

Comedian turned freshman Senator Al Franken gave the order while presiding over the Senate to a surprised Lieberman.

“I object,” Franken said, denying Lieberman the unanimous consent that he needed for “an additional moment” to complete his floor speech on healthcare.

“Really? Okay,” Lieberman told Franken sheepishly. “I don’t take it personally.”

Unanimous consent is routinely given to senators so that  they can have a few more minutes to wrap up their remarks. But many Democrats have apparently wanted to tell Lieberman to hush in recent weeks.

What will be in Obama’s Christmas stocking?

The last thing Republicans want to see this Christmas is the U.S. Senate giving President Barack Obama a nicely wrapped package of health care reform legislation.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele made that plain today. He hopes the Senate will be a lousy Santa who leaves nothing in Obama’s Christmas stocking.BRITAIN

“I hope so. I really do,” he told NBC’s Today show.

Steele says that’s because the American public doesn’t want the kind of healthcare legislation that Senate Democratic leaders have been talking about lately.

Can Obama keep Democrats in line on healthcare to the end?

So President Barack Obama goes to Capitol Hill over the weekend and late Tuesday Senate Democrats reach a healthcare compromise on a public insurance option (Republicans oppose the legislation so every Democrat vote is needed to move it along). OBAMA/

Lots of day-after grumbling from both sides of the political spectrum: The Chamber of Commerce still opposes it and liberal activist group MoveOn.org said senators had “bargained away the heart of healthcare reform.”

Well, for critics it’s not likely to get any better on the public option front.

Senate surprise: tax cosmetic surgery

The Senate’s healthcare reform legislation published by Democratic leaders last night included a big surprise for anyone saving up to enhance or undo what God gave them — a new 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures. OBAMA/

The tax would take effect beginning in January and is being proposed as part of the sweeping healthcare overhaul to partly pay the cost of helping millions of uninsured people obtain medical coverage.

It would raise nearly $6 billion over 10 years, and who knows, perhaps even a few lawmakers might be enhancing the Federal Treasury if the tax ends up in a final bill signed by President Barack Obama.

Clinton hopes for success where his effort failed

Former President Bill Clinton is clearly hoping that Congress succeeds this time around where his administration failed 15 years ago.

clintonAnd perfection is not required — just get healthcare reform done. That was Clinton’s message to Senate Democrats who are now behind the steering wheel in trying to move legislation forward.

Clinton’s own effort to overhaul the healthcare system in 1994 fizzled long before reaching this far — the House of Representatives approved its version of a bill last weekend.

Obama admits to mistakes, but no big ones

Barack Obama says he probably makes one mistake a day, but doesn’t think he has made any fundamental ones in almost 10 months as president of the United States.

obamartrsToward the end of his first term, his predecessor George W. Bush famously said in answer to a question that he could not think of any mistakes he had made — a comment which long dogged him as the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 led to chaos in Iraq.

When Obama was asked the same question on Monday, he was quicker on his feet.

“Oh, we make at least one mistake a day,” he said with a smile.

“But I will say this, I don’t think we’ve made big mistakes,” he told Reuters in an interview in the Oval Office. “I don’t think we’ve made fundamental mistakes.”

CBO: Good news, bad news on Republican healthcare plan

The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ non-partisan score keeper on the cost of legislation, has some good news for Republicans and the alternative healthcare proposal they plan to offer in the House of Representatives. Their plan would save the federal budget deficit $68 billion over 10 years and on average reduce insurance premiums compared to what they would be under current law.

protests“Under Republican health care reforms, premiums will go down, making coverage more affordable for families and employers, which is the first step to reducing the number of uninsured Americans,” said Republican Representative Dave Camp.

The proposal is far more limited in scope than the sweeping healthcare overhaul written by Democrats that the House is expected to debate on Saturday. The Republican proposal would provide for the sale of insurance coverage across state lines and calls for medical malpractice lawsuit reforms.

Dems see silver lining for healthcare in election results

Republican victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governors’ races may send shivers through Democratic circles, but what does it mean for President Barack Obama’s ambitious proposal to overhaul the $2.5 trillion healthcare system?

pelosiNot much, say Democrats. They are looking beyond the state issues that dominated the governor’s races and instead are focusing on two congressional races won by Democrats where national issues like healthcare reform were in play. 

“From my perspective we won last night,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters when asked about Tuesday’s elections. “This was a victory for healthcare reform. From my standpoint we picked up votes last night — one in California and one in New York.”

Democrats fire back at Republican health plan

Democrats, who have been on the defensive in a partisan battle over their sweeping healthcare overhaul, are firing back now that Republicans are preparing an alternative in the U.S. House of Representatives.hoyer-and-pelosiHouse Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that Republicans will get a vote on their proposal when the House considers the Democratic-written legislation possibly later this week.Hoyer, a Democrat, did not shy away from offering his own opinion about the Republican bill, saying it would allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines and would “gut consumer protections and encourage a race to the bottom.”Republicans argue the provision would inject more competition into the market and help lower premiums. But Hoyer said insurers would flock to states with the fewest consumer protections, sell their policies at low prices and that many consumers would discover in the middle of a health crisis that their policies don’t offer adequate protection.Other provisions in the bill, as outlined by House Republican Leader John Boehner, would encourage insurers to “cherry pick” and enroll the healthiest people, Hoyer said.The Republican proposal also leaves out major market reforms contained in the Democratic bill that would bar insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charging more based on medical history.A summary of the House Republican proposal is to be made available here.Boehner argued that the Republican plan aims to rein in soaring insurance premiums, but Hoyer and other Democrats say it would do little to expand coverage or make healthcare more affordable.”It doesn’t provide for insurance availability for all Americans,” Hoyer said. “It does little to expand access to coverage or address the $1,000 to $1,100 extra that every American is paying for people who do not have coverage and therefore add to the uncompensated care in hospitals.”Click here for more Reuters political coveragePhoto credit:  Reuters/Joshua Roberts (House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is greeted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi at healthcare event)

Some U.S. health insurers deny coverage to abuse victims, White House notes

USA/In eight U.S. states and the capital, Washington, D.C., being beaten by your spouse or domestic partner can be deemed a “pre-existing condition” that a company can legally use as a reason to deny health insurance coverage. Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, raised the issue in a web chat making the White House’s case for healthcare reform on Monday.

“In some states if you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can be considered as having a pre-existing condition,” Jarrett said as she hosted the chat on the White House website and on the Facebook social networking site, taking questions on an array of issues, many having to do with healthcare issues faced by members of minority groups.

Some of the participants in the webcast responded by posting outraged notes after she said it.