Historic House Health Care Vote is Expected on Sunday

March 19, 2010

Historic House Health Care Vote is Expected on Sunday
House Democrats are "pushing to the brink of passage a landmark, $940 billion health care overhaul bill that would simultaneously deliver on President Barack Obama's promise to expand coverage while slashing the deficit," according to the Associated Press.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the total 10-year cost of expanding coverage to be $940 billion. The nonpartisan analysts said the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over its first 10 years, continuing to drive down the red ink thereafter. Democratic leaders added that the deficit would be cut $1.2 trillion in the second decade.  House leaders appear increasingly confident of getting the 216 votes they need for passage by following a complicated legislative strategy.  First, the House will have to approve - "deem," in parliamentary terms - a Senate bill passed in December.  After that, both chambers will quickly pass a package of fixes agreed to in negotiations with the White House. 

Liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced his support for reform on Wednesday, becoming the first Democrat to declare he would vote in favor of the legislation after opposing an earlier version.  On Thursday, the AFL-CIO executive council voted to strongly endorse the bill, and labor group Change to Win is also supporting the bill.  Seniors would see the doughnut hole coverage gap in their prescription benefits gradually eliminated.  A key point of the bill includes giving Medicare beneficiaries who hit the doughnut hole limit this year $250 rebates. Also, the bill would scale back a new excise tax on higher-end insurance policies so that it would not take effect until 2018; the Senate had wanted it to begin five years sooner.  The final piece of the health package will be taken up under rules that protect it from a Republican filibuster, but Senate Republicans can raise multiple objections under a complicated set of rules written by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) more than 35 years ago.  "Medicare premiums have doubled during the past 8 years and will double again in the next 8 years unless Congress acts to control health care costs," said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, in endorsing the bill.   A vote in the House appears likely at or after 2:00 PM Eastern Time on Sunday.

Alliance Takes Active Role as Health Reform Vote Nears
The Alliance had key roles in two events with U.S House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) this week.  Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle was with the Speaker on Tuesday on Capitol Hill as she tried to gather the votes needed for passage http://bit.ly/9FdkYq.  On Thursday, Alliance member Stella Johnson of Washington, DC, spoke at a press event with the Speaker and several other House members, describing her difficulties as a senior who faces the doughnut hole.  On Monday, Alliance members joined the President for a health care reform rally in Strongsville, Ohio.  On Friday, several Alliance members joined the President at a George Mason University rally for health reform in Fairfax, Virginia.  Alliance members also worked in their Congressional Districts, making thousands of phone calls and sending more than 2,000 letters to their Members of Congress this week urging passage of reform. The national Alliance signed on to a reform letter from the "Seniors to Seniors" coalition and sent its own letter to each member of the U.S. House.  "The U.S. House now has the historic opportunity to pass comprehensive health care reform.  Retirees and all Americans have waited long enough," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. 

Republicans Name Six Members to Deficit Commission
Senators Tom Coburn (OK), Mike Crapo (ID), and Judd Gregg (NH) and Representatives Dave Camp (MI), Jeb Hensarling (TX), and Paul Ryan (WI) are the new Republican appointees to the bipartisan commission to lower the federal budget deficit.  "Nicknamed the 'Sock Our Seniors Six,' they are a group of lawmakers who have consistently voted to weaken Social Security and sell off Medicare to the big drug and insurance companies," said Mr. Coyle.  The new panelists have combined to average a 6.5% lifetime rating on the Alliance for Retired Americans Voting Record on key congressional votes on Social Security, Medicare, and other issues affecting retirement security.  "We hope the Commission will accurately point out the reckless fiscal decisions that got us to this point, and also reaffirm that Social Security and Medicare are two of our nation's greatest success stories and have helped generations of seniors stay healthy and out of poverty," he concluded.

Barbara Easterling is Honored by
President Easterling was honored by the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) at the 'Working Women's Award Celebration,' yesterday afternoon.  Ms. Easterling was recognized, along with 10 others, as a women's leader whose achievements are inspirations for greater advancements in the workplace, union and community.  In their first annual award celebration, the CLUW chose extraordinary role models who uphold the ideals of commitment and dedication to their work.  The other honorees are: Anna Burger, Chair, Change to Win; Arlene Holt Baker, Executive VP, AFL-CIO; Augusta Thomas, National VP of Women and Fair Practices, AFGE; Elizabeth Bunn, Secretary-Treasurer, UAW; Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO; Gloria Johnson, President Emerita, CLUW; Jane Broendel, Secretary-Treasurer, National Association of Letter Carriers; Joyce Miller, President Emerita, CLUW; Linda Chavez-Thompson, Executive VP Emerita, AFL-CIO; and Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary-Treasurer Emerita, OPEIU. 

Hilda Solis to Speak at Alliance's Las Vegas Convention
The Honorable Hilda Solis has been announced as another speaker at the Alliance's National Convention in Las Vegas, April 5-8, 2010.  She joins Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Liz Shuler and several others.  The conference, themed Building Retiree Power, offers educational and training opportunities to improve activism techniques and leadership skills for the 2010 elections.  For discount hotel rates, book on Bally's Las Vegas website http://bit.ly/btQ57d.  Reservations can also be made with Bally's directly at 1-800-358-8777 - tell them you are with the Alliance.  To register for the convention itself, please go to http://bit.ly/1jIzz2 or call (202) 637-5377.