Home Uncategorized Obama health plan war shifts to US Senate

Obama health plan war shifts to US Senate

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President Barack Obama’s Republican foes in the US Senate prepared Monday to wage political war on the last piece of his historic health care overhaul, seeking an edge in November mid-term elections.

Democrats, riding high after ushering in the most sweeping US social policy changes in more than four decades, said they welcomed the fight and dared their rivals to take a public stand on the measure’s most popular items. The House of Representatives passed the core of Obama’s plan late Sunday, but also a stand-alone package of changes that Senate Republicans planned to fight in hopes of bruising vulnerable Democrats ahead of the autumn ballot.

“We are going to have a very spirited campaign coming up between now and November. And there will be a very heavy price to pay for it,” Obama’s 2008 White House rival, Republican Senator John McCain, told ABC television. Overturning the plan, which the president was expected to sign as early as Tuesday, was a mathematical impossibility in this election cycle because Republicans cannot win the two-thirds majority needed to override Obama’s veto.

And the Senate rules for taking up the measure make it unlikely Republicans can block the measure, though they could force a change that would require another politically difficult House vote. Republicans planned to offer a series of carefully targeted amendments aimed at turning up the heat on swing-district Democrats, then gauge their members’ appetite for a free-for-all fight against the bill, two party sources said.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell signalled his intent to zero in on items like planned cuts to the hugely popular government-run Medicare program for the elderly, and tax increases on the wealthy. The House vote “marks the beginning of a backlash against Democrats in Washington who lost their way and lost the trust of the people who elected them,” McConnell said in a statement.

Democrats scoffed, with Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, David Plouffe, saying the party would not passively take its lumps like a “pinata” in the election but would fight back hard. “We’re going to go out there and not just talk about what we’re for, but what the Republicans are voting against,” he told ABC television. Republicans will target Democratic House members from some 50 districts carried by Republican presidential nominees McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004, said Tony Fratto, a former spokesman for the Bush White House.

“Those guys had a tough uphill climb to begin with. Some of them walked the plank and made tough votes on (legislation to fight) climate change (last year), which put them in a tough position. And the health care votes will make it even worse,” said Fratto, now a strategic consultant. Democrats have acknowledged the challenge and rallied money and volunteers to help vulnerable party members — led by Obama himself, who has described himself as all too aware of the potential political cost.

And they have challenged Republicans vowing to repeal the bill to explain to voters why they oppose provisions like banning the insurance company practice of dropping people from coverage for preexisting conditions or when they get sick. Fratto said Republicans would avoid that minefield: “Everybody agreed with the insurance reforms. Republicans aren’t going to run on repealing them, they supported them. It’s going to be about taxes and spending.”

Republicans were also trumpeting legal challenges in several states to the legislation’s requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance, with government subsidies to help the neediest do so.

Washington, March 22, 2010 (AFP)