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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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GOP notables back health reform

WASHINGTON – Seeking to provide fresh evidence of bipartisan support for health-care reform, the White House is orchestrating a series of endorsements from GOP heavyweights around the country. With a key Senate panel poised to vote on a sweeping health bill, President Obama and his top aides have reached out to current and retired Republican leaders in the hopes of countering the charge that Democrats are using their congressional majorities to push through partisan legislation.

Cantwell health proposal advances

WASHINGTON – Fearing a backlash, Democrats smoothed the impact of sweeping health care legislation on working-class families Thursday and steered President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority toward a crucial Senate advance. The most far-reaching overhaul in decades aims to protect millions who have unreliable coverage or none at all. Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee attacked the bill as riddled with tax increases that violated Obama’s campaign promises, but failed to remove any of them.

Health bill survives latest attacks

WASHINGTON – A White House-backed overhaul of the nation’s health care system weathered repeated challenges from Republican critics over taxes, abortion and more on Wednesday, and the bill’s architect claimed enough votes to push it through the Senate Finance Committee as early as week’s end. “We’re coming to closure,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, as President Barack Obama lobbied at least one wavering Democrat by phone to swing behind the measure.

Senate bill tougher on emissions

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are pushing for a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 – deeper than what the House has passed and what President Barack Obama wants – according to a long-awaited bill that will test how serious the U.S. is about slowing global warming. The Democratic bill is to be released today by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with a vote by the panel likely in late October.

Public option takes a hit

WASHINGTON – A key Senate panel twice beat back efforts Tuesday to create a government-run insurance plan, dealing a crippling blow to the hopes of liberals seeking to expand the federal role in health coverage as a cornerstone of reform. In a signal moment in the increasingly fractious debate over reforming the nation’s sprawling health care system, Senate Finance Committee members rejected two amendments to create a public option on votes of 15 to 8 and 13 to 10.

Health reform lines drawn

WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans formed clear battle lines Tuesday as the Senate Finance Committee opened a high-stakes debate over health care legislation proposed last week by the panel’s chairman. Both sides found plenty to criticize in Sen. Max Baucus’ bill, particularly its requirement that all U.S. citizens must buy health insurance at potentially high costs.

Cantwell, Crapo call for changes in health care bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sens. Maria Cantwell and Mike Crapo are on opposite sides when it comes to fixing the nation’s health care system, but the first day of hearings on the Senate’s main reform bill gave them one point of agreement: Without significant changes, neither will vote for it.

Jobless aid passes House

WASHINGTON – The House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to approve a $1.4 billion stopgap extension of jobless benefits, but some states are beginning to seek longer-term solutions to an unemployment problem that is expected to remain serious for the rest of the year and may grow worse next year. The extension, covering an additional 13 weeks, will maintain payments for more than 1 million workers in 29 hard-hit states – including Washington and Idaho – whose benefits are set to expire before the end of the year. Unemployment payments for more than 300,000 people will end this month alone.

House to vote to extend jobless benefits

WASHINGTON — The jobless in those states hardest hit by the recession would get some short-term federal relief under House legislation extending unemployment benefits, already at record levels, for 13 weeks.

Baucus’ bill gets reworked

WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee was revising his sweeping health care bill Monday to address serious concerns from fellow Democrats and a key Republican about insurance costs, part of his ongoing struggle to deliver on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority. The changes – which include possibly halving a penalty for people who don’t comply with a new requirement to purchase insurance – came a day ahead of a committee session beginning today to amend and vote on the bill, which Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., hopes his panel will approve by the end of the week.

House moves to extend unemployment benefits

WASHINGTON — Despite predictions the Great Recession is running out of steam, the House is taking up emergency legislation this week to help the millions of Americans who see no immediate end to their economic miseries.

Subsidies, regulations drive health reform bill

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., on Wednesday released the crucial moderate alternative in the struggle to refashion America’s health care system, a $856-billion bill that includes a mix of sweeping new insurance regulations but no government-run plan. Under his proposal, nearly everyone would be required to obtain coverage or pay a penalty. Insurers, in turn, would not be able to deny policies to people with pre-existing medical conditions or to cancel coverage after people got sick. And the federal government would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to help lower-income people buy coverage.

House rebukes Wilson

WASHINGTON – In a rare action, the House rebuked one of its members Tuesday for shouting “You lie” at President Obama last Wednesday, ending a weeklong standoff during which Democrats demanded a public apology that the lawmaker refused to give. On a largely party-line vote, the House voted 240 to 179 to ratify a “resolution of disapproval” against Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., for interrupting Obama’s speech last week before a joint session of Congress.

Health reform opposition easing

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama continues to face significant public resistance to his drive to initiate far-reaching changes to the country’s health care system, with widespread skepticism about central tenets of his plan, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But after a summer of angry debate and protests, opposition to the effort has eased somewhat, and there appears to be potential for further softening among critics if Congress abandons the idea of a government-sponsored health insurance option, a proposal that has become a flashpoint in the debate. The passion gap, which had shown greater intensity among opponents of the plan, has also begun to close, with supporters increasingly energized and more now seeing reform as possible without people being forced to give up their current coverage.

Compromises on table in Obama health plan

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Wednesday laid out a series of compromises he’s willing to make to get a health care overhaul through a nervous Congress this year, including diluting his vision for a new public insurance program and embracing ideas floated by Republicans. In an address to a joint session of Congress, Obama tried to seize control of the Democratic Party’s highest domestic priority after months of party disarray and raucous public debate across the country. The president said that he’d require all individuals to have health insurance and would provide tax credits to people and small businesses that couldn’t afford it.

Hints of compromise on health care reform

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will seek to rally Congress to pass health care reform in a prime-time address today, even as lawmakers continue struggling to reach broad consensus on some of the toughest issues facing them in the debate. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., offered the president a glimmer of hope for compromise, circulating a detailed draft of the only Democratic reform proposal that has been assembled with significant Republican input. But in a meeting Tuesday, Baucus was unable to persuade his “Gang of Six” bipartisan negotiators to endorse the nearly $900 billion plan, which does not include many provisions that liberal lawmakers are clamoring to see in a final measure. He gave his two Democratic and three Republican colleagues until 10 this morning to offer suggestions for improving the bill, which would require all U.S. citizens and legal residents to buy health insurance or carry coverage through an employer, a public program or new insurance “exchanges” as of 2013.

Health care ‘trigger’ idea gains

WASHINGTON – Looking to break the logjam on health care legislation, the White House and Democrats in the Senate are increasingly placing their hopes on the idea of a “trigger” that, if set off, would allow the government to offer health insurance to many Americans. Advocates believe the “trigger” idea could win over several moderate Republican and wavering Democratic senators, who do not want to give the government blanket authorization to enter the insurance market and compete with private companies.

Obama aims to jump-start reform

WASHINGTON – After spending weeks defending his top legislative priority, President Barack Obama will attempt to regain the initiative in the health care debate with an address to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday night. Aides said Obama will use the speech to add more specifics to his vision for overhauling the nation’s system. He will be attempting a difficult balancing act, seeking to win moderate Senate Democrats to his cause without embracing compromises that would alienate liberal House Democrats. Obama is not expected to associate himself with any one bill, but a senior administration official said the president’s goal is to be “much more prescriptive” than he has been, mapping out ways to merge proposals and “move Congress toward one single solution.”