Obama poised for major victory on healthcare reforms

December 24th, 2009 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Dec 24 (IANS) President Barack Obama stands at the cusp of a major victory with the Senate poised to adopt a $871 billion health care reform package, a key domestic goal that has eluded several presidents before him.

The Senate Wednesday voted 60-39 along party lines to clear a third and final procedural hurdle by limiting remaining debate time and setting a final vote at 8 a.m. Thursday. As the final passage requires only a simple majority - 51 votes, the bill is virtually certain to be adopted.

Democrats also turned back last-ditch motions from Republicans claiming various provisions in the bill, including a mandate that individuals purchase coverage, are unconstitutional.

“It’s long past time we declare health care a right and not a privilege,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Today is a victory … for American families,” proclaimed another Democratic Senator Max Baucus. “Americans won.”

Obama himself, in an interview with PBS Newshour, said he’s “very satisfied” that the Senate is on the verge of passing the bill.

Although Obama would have liked to see the final health care bill include a public option, he said he is overall “very satisfied” that both the House and Senate bills have 95 percent of what he wanted in there, or as he put it, “nine-tenths” of a loaf.

“Look, I’ve been in favour of the public option,” he told PBS. “I think the more choice, the more competition we have, the better.

“On the other hand, I think that the exchange itself, the system that we’re setting up that forces insurance companies to essentially bid for three million or four million or five million people’s business, that in and of itself is going to have a disciplining effect.”

But Obama said although he would have liked to see a public option as one of the elements in the final bill, it should not be a deal-breaker.

While he said he is “never completely satisfied,” he added that he is still “very satisfied” by both the House and Senate bills and would sign either of them into law.

The expected victory for President Obama’s top domestic priority comes after nearly a year of sharply polarised deliberations on Capitol Hill. Any measure passed by the Senate, however, will still have to be merged with a $1 trillion plan approved by the House of Representatives in November.

The vote will put a major expansion of health care - a goal that most recent Democratic presidents have tried and failed to achieve - closer to enactment than ever. But considerable political obstacles remain before a bill reaches President Obama’s desk.

All 40 Republican senators oppose the health care bill, and party leaders say they will do their best to derail it over the coming weeks as House and Senate negotiators begin trying to meld their two competing versions of the legislation into a single bill that will have to be approved once more by both chambers.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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