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Senate Rejects Nelson Abortion Amendment

December 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

By a vote of 54-45, the Senate today voted to table Sen. Ben Nelson's [D, NE] amendment that would have blocked all women purchasing insurance on the new Exchanges from buying a plan that covers elective abortions, even if they are paying for the plan entirely with their own money.

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Before President Obama can sign a final bill into law, both the Senate and the House need to pass the same exact version of the bill. So how do we get from two bills that are worlds apart on major issues to a single bill that both chambers can agree on?

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The Senate on Monday unanimously approved an elegant, two-page amendment to the health care bill that Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR], the amendment's sponsor, says will "both simplify a consumer’s search for the right health care company and make health insurance companies more responsive to patient needs."

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While the country has experienced an almost unprecedented economic downturn this year, one of the most effective forms of stimulus has been unemployment benefits. Those benefits will expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

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Public Option Wrangling

December 7, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

With four conservative Democrats threatening to filibuster the health care bill if it includes a public option, Senate Democrats are trying to find a way to water down the public option far enough that the four and perhaps even a couple of Republicans will support it, but not so far that too many progressives join a filibuster from the other side.

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The Senate's Stupak

December 7, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

As expected, Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] filed his abortion amendment today, and it looks very similar to the Stupak amendment in the House, including this language: No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion... In other words, it's designed to block all women purchasing insurance on the new Exchanges from buying a plan that covers a...

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The Week Ahead in Congress

December 6, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Today begins the 111th Congress' biggest week yet. Two of President Obama's most significant domestic priorities -- health care reform (H.R. 3590) and overhauling regulations in the financial sector (H.R. 4137) -- will see action on the floors of the House and the Senate.

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Conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson [NE] is planning to introduce an abortion funding amendment modeled after the Stupak amendment that was attached to the House health care amendment. Like the Stupak amendment (which you can read in the context of the House bill here), it would bar anyone buying insurance through the new Exchanges from purchasing a plan that covers elective abortions, even if they are buying the insurance plan entirely with their own money. Nelson is hanging his vote on his...

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The Senate's first order of business on Saturday will be an amendment from Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR], one of the key Democratic swing votes, to limit pay for executives of health insurance companies.

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Vitter Holds Bernanke Hostage to Fed Transparency

December 4, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Five senators now have "holds" on the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The five could seriously slow the confirmation process down, but it's still probably not enough to prevent it from eventually going through. One of the senators with a hold, Sen. David Vitter [R, LA], wants to use the leverage they have to force a vote on Federal Reserve transparency legislation, The Hill reports. "Before we even think about moving ahead with Mr. Bernanke’s nomination, we should allow...

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House Passes a Permanent Lower Estate Tax Rate

December 3, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

By a vote of 225-220, the House of Representatives voted today to make permanent the 2010 estate tax level of 45 percent, with the first $3.5 million of taxable assets per estate being tax exempt.

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Another Public Option Alternative

December 3, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA], one of the key swing votes in the Senate health care debate, has begun passing around her own alternative plan to the public option as written into the bill. The Politico: Landrieu calls her proposal the "competitive community option," which sounds remarkably similar to a trigger proposal advocated by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). A state-based nonprofit insurance competitor would kick into effect where coverage is not considered affordable. It would receive seed...

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Senate Votes on Two Women's Health Amendments

December 3, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Both amendments -- one from a Democrats and one from a Republican -- were in direct response to the recent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations that women start screening for breast cancer at age 50, not 40, and that women above 50 get screening less frequently.

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After three full days of talk and no action, the Senate is finally set to take the first of what is expected to be dozens of votes on health care reform tomorrow. According to the Senate Democrats' calendar, they will vote on the first four amendments -- two from the Democrats and two from the Republicans.

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Sanders Would Filibuster Bernanke

December 2, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Bernard Sanders [I, VT] has placed a "hold" on the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. “The American people want a new direction on Wall Street and at the Fed. They do not want as chairman someone who has been part of the problem and who has been responsible for many of the enormous difficulties that we are now experiencing,” Sanders said in a press release posted on his website. “It’s time for a change at the Fed.” In the Senate, a "hold" is essentially a warning...

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