Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama to push healthcare, energy reform

Obama to push healthcare, energy reform
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will throw his weight behind legislative bids to reform healthcare and cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions on Tuesday in his fourth White House press conference since taking office.
Obama, who has focused his first five months as president on trying to end the recession, is likely to discuss his plans to create jobs and stem unemployment, which economists expect will hit 10 percent in coming months.
"The president will use the occasion, again, to discuss the progress that he believes the country needs to make on laying that foundation for long-term growth," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday.
"The president will talk about progress that we've made and is being made on energy independence, legislation going through Congress, and I anticipate he'll also have comments on what we're seeing in Iran."
Legislation on two of Obama's signature issues -- covering 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance and capping carbon dioxide pollution from major industries -- is currently moving through the U.S. Congress.
But both bills face obstacles. Lawmakers are worried about the $1 trillion healthcare reform is expected to cost over the next 10 years, while the climate bill's chances of passage, though more positive in the House of Representatives, are less clear in the Senate.
Obama hopes to shore up support on both issues while addressing international crises including unrest in Iran following contested presidential elections there and tension on the Korean peninsula.
He is scheduled to make an opening statement at 12:30 p.m. EDT in the White House Rose Garden and then take questions from reporters for about an hour.
Obama will be watched closely for further changes in his tone toward Iran. The president has sharpened his criticism of the Iranian government for cracking down on demonstrators while trying to avoid the appearance of meddling.
The news conference comes as Obama, who remains personally popular with a majority of the American public, has seen polls showing declining satisfaction with his policies.
A newly released Washington Post/ABC News poll showed only about half of Americans believe the president's $787 billion stimulus package will boost the economy.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)

Source: Reuters

Obama set to push healthcare and energy reform

Obama set to push healthcare and energy reform
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will throw his weight behind legislative bids to reform healthcare and cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions on Tuesday in his fourth White House press conference since taking office.
Obama, who has focused his first five months as president on trying to end the recession, is likely to discuss his plans to create jobs and stem unemployment, which economists expect will hit 10 percent in coming months.
"The president will use the occasion, again, to discuss the progress that he believes the country needs to make on laying that foundation for long-term growth," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Monday.
"The president will talk about progress that we've made and is being made on energy independence, legislation going through Congress, and I anticipate he'll also have comments on what we're seeing in Iran."
Legislation on two of Obama's signature issues -- covering 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance and capping carbon dioxide pollution from major industries -- is currently moving through the U.S. Congress.
But both bills face obstacles. Lawmakers are worried about the $1 trillion healthcare reform is expected to cost over the next 10 years, while the climate bill's chances of passage, though more positive in the House of Representatives, are less clear in the Senate.
Obama hopes to shore up support on both issues while addressing international crises including unrest in Iran following contested presidential elections there and tension on the Korean peninsula.
He is scheduled to make an opening statement at 12:30 p.m. EDT in the White House Rose Garden and then take questions from reporters for about an hour.
Obama will be watched closely for further changes in his tone toward Iran. The president has sharpened his criticism of the Iranian government for cracking down on demonstrators while trying to avoid the appearance of meddling.
The news conference comes as Obama, who remains personally popular with a majority of the American public, has seen polls showing declining satisfaction with his policies.
A newly released Washington Post/ABC News poll showed only about half of Americans believe the president's $787 billion stimulus package will boost the economy.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)

Source: Reuters

Drug company deal may give Obama a boost

Drug company deal may give Obama a boost
Deal reached to cut drug costs
Play Video
By Ross Colvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday hailed a deal with U.S. drug companies to cut prescription costs for the elderly, a move that could help him drive his ambitious healthcare reforms through Congress.
"This is a significant breakthrough on the road to healthcare reform, one that will make the difference in the lives of many older Americans," Obama said at the White House of the agreement struck with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America industry association.
Reviving one of his best known slogans from the campaign trail, Obama took aim at naysayers on healthcare reform: "Yes, we can. We are going to get this done."
Obama's healthcare overhaul is his top domestic priority, but it is proving a tough sell to both Democrat and Republican lawmakers in Congress worried about the $1 trillion price tag.
Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress hope to bring down the long-term costs of healthcare that recent data show are soaring out of control.
Part of that long-term picture is improving the health of Americans and toward that end, Obama on Monday signed into law a landmark bill that gives the U.S. government broad regulatory power for the first time over cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The drug deal, which offers $80 billion in prescription discounts over 10 years to help elderly Americans afford drugs, comes ahead of a week of discussions in Congress on how to pay for Obama's reforms and ensure coverage for the 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance.
BIPARTISAN OR BUST?
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Monday pushed ahead with a fiercely partisan debate on the panel's Democratic-written bill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is expected to continue negotiations on what he hopes will be a bipartisan bill.
But Senator Charles Schumer, a member of the Democratic Senate leadership, said talks on a potential compromise on the government role in covering the uninsured may not produce results agreeable to Democrats who control Congress.
Talks on expanding insurance offerings beyond private insurers have focused on proposed non-profit medical cooperatives instead of a new government plan backed by many Democrats.
"When Republicans talk about the co-op model, it's clear they are not talking about anything close to a national plan with enough clout to keep insurance companies honest," Schumer said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Obama is stepping up efforts to build public support in the facing of mounting Republican criticisms. He will hold a town hall-style meeting on Wednesday to discuss healthcare and also plans a Tuesday news conference at which he likely will talk about his proposed reforms.
It underscores how the president is trying to take control of the debate and personally push the legislative process forward so that he can have a bill on his desk by October.
Republicans argue that a new publican healthcare plan would drive private health care companies out of business. They also argue that plans to provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured people will add to America's huge deficit, a growing worry for investors. Continued...
Source: Reuters

Obama signs landmark law to regulate tobacco

Obama signs landmark law to regulate tobacco
Deal reached to cut drug costs
Play Video
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, citing his own struggle to give up smoking, signed a law on Monday giving the U.S. government broad regulatory power for the first time over cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Obama said the law would curb the ability of tobacco companies to market their products to the young.
"Almost 90 percent of all smokers began at or before their 18th birthday," Obama said at a White House ceremony before signing the bill.
"I know -- I was one of these teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it's been with you for a long time."
Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said Obama's smoking habit was "something that he continues to struggle with." He declined to answer directly whether the president still smoked.
The law followed a campaign by tobacco industry foes in Congress for more than a decade to put cigarettes under the control of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
It allows the FDA to put strict limits on the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco products but stops short of allowing it to ban cigarettes or their addictive ingredient nicotine.
Nearly 20 percent of Americans smoke, and tobacco use kills about 440,000 people a year in the United States due to cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other ailments.
Obama cited those statistics when declaring the completion of the law a victory.
"We've known about this for decades, but despite the best efforts and good progress made by so many leaders and advocates with us today, the tobacco industry and its special interest lobbying have generally won the day," he said.
"Their campaign has finally failed," he continued. "(The law) will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell."
"LIFESAVING" LAW
Health groups welcomed the new law, although some experts have said it did not go far enough to help prevent smoking.
"This lifesaving new law has the potential to break the deadly cycle of addiction and put an end to Big Tobacco's targeting of our nation's children," said John Seffrin, head of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Altria Group Inc, the parent company of the largest U.S. cigarette maker, Philip Morris, also said it welcomed the new rules. Continued...
Source: Reuters

Supreme Court avoids major voting rights ruling

Supreme Court avoids major voting rights ruling
By Jim Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to rule on the constitutionality of part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act which sought to protect minorities in states with a history of racial discrimination.
The nation's top court instead ruled on a more narrow constitutional question, deciding that political subdivisions within a state can apply to be exempted from the Act.
The 8-1 ruling, spurred by a Texas municipal utility district's challenge, could result in other government bodies in 16 largely Southern states seeking to be free of the Act's requirements.
Congress adopted the Voting Rights Act at the height of the U.S. civil rights movement in a bid to make it easier for millions of blacks and other minorities to vote.
Congress overwhelmingly voted to extend it in 2006 for 25 years, with then-President George W. Bush signing it into law. The central provision required approval from the Justice Department or a federal court.
Writing the court's main opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Texas utility district should be eligible to seek an exemption from provisions requiring federal approval for any changes to local elections.
The court held that the Texas district could apply for exemption even though it does not register voters, like states, counties, parishes and other sub-units that were the primary targets of the Act.
Roberts said the court did not address the overall constitutional question at this time because it was an important issue that required further study.
The constitutional challenge had been one of the most closely watched cases of the Supreme Court's term.
(Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: Reuters

Clinton to skip G8, OSCE meetings in Europe

Clinton to skip G8, OSCE meetings in Europe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not attend international meetings in Italy and Greece this week because of an injury to her arm, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
The top U.S. diplomat had surgery on Friday to repair her right elbow, which she broke on Wednesday when she tripped and fell in the State Department's basement.
Clinton was to travel to Trieste, Italy for a Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting and to the Greek island of Corfu, where she was to take part in an Organization for Security and Cooperation gathering and meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a NATO-Russia meeting.
Clinton decided to skip the meetings on the advice of her doctor, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters, adding that she had come to the department on Monday and was "on top of her game" despite wearing a cast and sling.
"The secretary is doing better. She successfully came through her surgery. She was able to come by and visit with us in the department this morning ... but she does have a road to travel in terms of her recovery and rehabilitation," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg said at a news conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze.
Undersecretary of State William Burns will represent the United States at the G8 discussions in Trieste.
U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke will also be in Trieste to take part in talks on Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Obama administration is trying to defeat al Qaeda and Taliban insurgencies.
U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, who helped end the Northern Ireland conflict, will also be in Trieste for talks on Israeli-Palestinian peace, including a planned meeting of the Middle East peace mediators that groups the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
Steinberg will take Clinton's place in Corfu for the OSCE gathering and for the NATO-Russia ministerial meeting, the first to be held since last year's war in Georgia.
Russia pulled out of a ministerial meeting with NATO planned for May because of the alliance's expulsion of two of Moscow's diplomats in a spy scandal. NATO has previously said such meetings are hard to arrange given Clinton and Lavrov's packed schedules.
Asked about the Corfu NATO-Russia ministerial, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said: "We continue to plan for the meeting to ... be held as scheduled."
(Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: Reuters
 

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