Republicans already talking about repeal of health-care bill
Even as House Democrats search for the votes to send health-care legislation to President Obama, dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates have signed a pledge to back an effort to repeal the bill, should the GOP take control of either house of Congress after this fall's elections.
The day in D.C.Jobs bill: By a 68-29 vote, the Senate on Wednesday passed a $17.6 billion jobs bill intended to spur hiring nationwide by, among other things, granting employers a payroll tax "holiday" for the rest of the year for hiring new workers. Eleven Republicans voted with Democrats on the bill, which also gives a $1,000 tax credit for every new employee kept for 52 weeks, allows easier write offs for equipment transfer and includes $20 billion in highway and mass-transit to jump-start construction projects.
Cocaine sentencing: The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a measure to reduce the disparity in sentences handed out to those convicted of crack- and powder-cocaine charges. Currently, a person convicted of crack-cocaine possession gets the same mandatory jail time as someone with 100 times the same quantity of powder cocaine. That 100-1 ratio has been particularly hard on the black community, where convictions on federal crack laws are more prevalent. A companion bill is pending in the House.
WASHINGTON — Even as House Democrats search for the votes to send health-care legislation to President Obama, dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates have signed a pledge to back an effort to repeal the bill, should the GOP take control of either house of Congress after this fall's elections.
Democrats picked up support Wednesday from some important quarters. House Democratic leaders were buoyed by the backing of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who had voted against the bill in November, and of Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., who explained, "I am a staunch pro-life member of Congress, both for the born and the unborn."
A letter from groups representing 59,000 nuns also expressed support for the legislation, which is opposed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. House Democratic leaders hope for a vote on the legislation by the weekend. Under the most widely discussed scenario, the House would vote first on the rule governing debate, which would include a provision "deeming" the Senate's version of the health bill passed once the rule is adopted. If that is approved, a second vote would occur on a package of changes to the Senate health legislation, or "reconciliation."
An analysis of proposed changes by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has been promised since late last week, but it's apparently stalled because most of the changes that House Democrats and Obama want would drive up the measure's costs: a delay in a new excise tax on high-end health-insurance policies, more Medicare prescription-drug benefits, additional subsidies for lower-income consumers and more aid to states for the cost of Medicaid.
Taking a break from his face-to-face efforts to win support for the measure, Obama made a rare appearance on Fox News Channel. "I'm confident it will pass. And the reason I'm confident that it's going to pass is because it's the right thing to do," the president said in a sometimes testy interview with reporter Bret Baier, who repeatedly prodded him about special deals contained in the package that were used to win over recalcitrant lawmakers, as well as the parliamentary maneuver that the House may use.
Started by the conservative activist group Club for Growth, the "Repeal It" movement first won the backing in January of some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, such as "tea party" favorite Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. It has since expanded to include some of the party's Senate candidates in liberal-leaning states such as New Hampshire and Illinois.
Lawmakers on both sides acknowledge any repeal would be highly unlikely as long as Obama remains in office, as he could veto any such legislation.
All major GOP Senate hopefuls in Kentucky, Nevada, Kansas and Missouri have pledged to "sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care-takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government."
Some Democrats say the health-care bill will become more popular as soon as it's signed, particularly since some of the provisions most favored by the public start this year, such as allowing young adults to stay covered by their parents' health-care plans up to age 26.
Asked about the GOP idea, David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser, said Sunday, "Let's have that fight." He added of GOP threats to call for the law's repeal: "Make my day."
Compiled from The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and The New York Times
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