US health bill fixes need new vote
WASHINGTON: Republicans forced a new vote on fixes to historic US health care reform legislation by finding two procedural “violations,” a spokesman for a top Democratic senator said today.
“After hours of trying to find a way to block this, they (Republicans) found two relatively minor provisions that are violations of Senate procedure which means we’re going to have to send it back to the House,” Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told AFP.
Reid had been working to corral Senate votes for a package of “fixes” to the health care legislation, which President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday.
Manley said the violations related to provisions dealing with “higher education,” but did not provide further details.
“I’m confident that the House will be able to deal with these and pass the legislation,” he said.
A day after Obama signed the main health care reform legislation into law, the Senate began debate on Wednesday on modifications sent by the House.
Often the Senate and the House pass bills containing different language and then hammer out a consensus bill that both houses then vote on again. In this case no compromise bill was drawn up and the House agreed to use the Senate version for its historic vote on Sunday. The fixes were to alter provisions in the original Senate version of health care reform that the House had agreed to pass in exchange for certain alterations.
The Senate took up the package of fixes on Wednesday, with Republicans seeking to introduce dozens of amendments aimed in part at forcing the House to vote anew.
Democrats planned to approve the changes in the Senate under rules that prevent Republicans from using a filibuster to indefinitely delay and kill the measure.
The health care legislation Obama signed into law on Tuesday is his administration’s key priority and will extend coverage to some 32 million Americans who currently lack insurance. The 940-billion-dollar overhaul means 95 per cent of US citizens and legal residents under the age of 65 will have health insurance.
The 2,000-plus page bill mandates that all Americans buy insurance, or face fines — a provision that has drawn lawsuits from several state attorney generals who claim it is unconstitutional.
Among other key reforms, the legislation also bans insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, from dropping clients who get sick or from setting lifetime caps.
Republicans presented a united front in opposition to the bill, which also drew anti-reform protesters to Washington.
But a USA Today/Gallup poll taken just as it was signed into law found that nearly half of Americans support the overhaul, with 49 per cent of respondents saying the bill was a “good thing,” while 40 per cent considered it a “bad thing.”