Monday, June 8, 2009

Health and climate change vie for boost in Congress

Health and climate change vie for boost in Congress
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Barack Obama may be pressuring Congress as no U.S. president has for decades as he aims to get two big domestic goals passed this year -- reforming health care and fighting global warming.
"It's not impossible to do both, but that would be more than a Congress has ever given a president, maybe since the first First 100 Days," said Brookings Institution senior fellow Stephen Hess, referring to the start of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" presidency in 1933.
A further time constraint may be the pressures imposed by the campaign next year for congressional elections in November when the seats of all 435 U.S. representatives and a third of the 100 senators are up for grabs.
Congress in the past often has shown itself to be unable to handle more than one big issue a year, but Obama and his fellow Democrats, who control the Senate and House of Representatives, see a window of opportunity this year to pass two long-standing Democratic goals.
Expanding health care to the uninsured and reducing pollution associated with climate change would have an economic impact on nearly every consumer and most U.S. companies -- from health insurers and utilities, to oil refineries, ailing automakers, steel manufacturers and small businesses.
Nonetheless, Democratic leaders are giving it a run, placing both initiatives on a fast track -- with or without much Republican support.
"The one that has the highest probability of making it is health care," said Bruce Josten, an executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He noted a full legislative agenda later this year, including annual spending bills, a Supreme Court confirmation and tax legislation, could crowd out a climate bill debate in the Senate.
Nevertheless, several congressional committees are pushing ahead with their review of the bill that aims to cut industry's carbon dioxide emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 with alternative energy sources and energy efficiencies.
The bill's prospects are strengthened by an unusual coalition of environmentalists, corporations and labor unions that have joined the effort. Obama is trying to sell climate change legislation as much more than doing something good for the environment. "Green" job creation and weaning the country off of foreign oil are his major talking points.
According to several Democratic lawmakers, the White House is already working hard to woo Senate Democratic and Republican moderates who will hold the keys to obtaining the needed 60-vote majority in the 100-member Senate.
In the meantime, environmentalists are heartened that four months into Obama's presidency such wide-ranging legislation is advancing, even with its concessions to some industries.
"If it became law today it would be the most important piece of energy and environmental legislation Congress ever produced," said one activist.
HEALTH CARE IN THE LEAD
Of the two, health care might be the bill that is more likely to reach Obama's desk for enactment by year's end. Both houses of Congress hope to blend their respective bills into a compromise measure by October -- Obama's deadline.
Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy has a major role in drafting the new health care bill as head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The bill would require individuals and businesses to purchase insurance and prohibit insurance companies from refusing to cover anyone because of health history. Continued...
Source: Reuters

No comments:

 

Business

Politics

Incidents

 

Society

Culture