February 04, 2011

Senate Rejects Republican Attempt to Repeal the Health Care Law

On Wednesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate tried to repeal the health care law, but the attempt was defeated, 51-47. All Democrats present voted to keep the law, while all Republicans present voted to repeal it. Two senators, Mark Warner (D-VA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), were not present for the day’s votes. Also on Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly, 81-17, to strip a tax-reporting provision of the law that opponents say overburdens small business.

On Monday, a Florida judge ruled that the health care law places an unconstitutional requirement on Americans to buy health insurance. Now, two federal judges have struck at this key provision. The cases are almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court, which many predict will decide the law’s fate by the spring of 2012, according to The Washington Post. Legal experts say it seems possible that the high court might strike down all or part of the law. Next, the two political parties will settle in for a year of smaller battles. Republicans in Congress will seek to deny the Obama administration the money it needs to implement parts of the law. Democrats believe Americans will become attached to the law’s provisions – including closing the doughnut hole gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and free preventive screenings for seniors. The high court’s decision, if it does get the final word, may turn on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often the swing vote.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said this week that the Florida judge’s ruling doesn’t represent the “big picture” of the White House’s biggest domestic achievement. Durbin pointed out that Social Security, the minimum wage, and civil rights laws were also challenged but “survived.”

Harry Reid: Social Security Cuts are “Off the Table”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said this week that cuts to Social Security are “off the table” http://on.wsj.com/hP5w8w. Reid’s comments come as House Republican leaders have been cranking up the rhetoric about raising the retirement age and cutting Social Security. “This is a big indication that Harry Reid and other Democrats in the Senate will protect Social Security,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  “However, we must remain vigilant.”

GOP’s Medicare Privatization Efforts Continue

According to the Associated Press, months after they hammered Democrats for cutting Medicare, House Republicans are debating whether to re-launch their quest to privatize it. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is testing support for his idea to replace Medicare with a fixed payment to buy a private medical plan from a menu of coverage options. GOP leaders will determine if the so-called voucher plan will be part of the budget Republicans put forward in the spring. Under Ryan’s plan, those now 54 and under would get a fixed payment from the government when they become eligible at age 65. They would be able to use the voucher to buy a Medicare-approved private plan. The amount of the voucher would be based on total current Medicare spending and indexed to grow year by year thereafter. An Associated Press-GfK market research company poll last year found 51% opposed a voucher plan for Medicare, while 35% said they supported it. Opposition was strong among seniors and baby boomers. However, those born after 1980 favored the approach by 47% to 41%.  “Rep. Ryan can try to dismantle Medicare, but seniors will not let him reach his goal,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

State Round-up: Wisconsin, Indiana, Nevada

In a move that would likely lead to lower voter turnout in Wisconsin, Republican state legislators and new Governor Scott Walker (R) are backing a recently proposed Voter ID Law that would require voters statewide to show photo identification prior to casting their ballots.  Republicans are eager to pass this measure in time for the April 5th elections. University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor David Canon, who studies election law, said the proposal would be the most restrictive in the country. The Wisconsin Alliance, as well as the NAACP-Milwaukee and Disability Rights Wisconsin, have come out against the proposed law.

A move by an Indiana state agency that seeks to cut funding to a home-based care program for seniors has brought opposition from the Indiana Home Care Task Force. John Cardwell, executive director of United Senior Action and former chairman of the task force, and Elmer Blankenship, president of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans, spoke out Monday against the plan from the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration. It would cut $9.42 million from the state budget for CHOICE (Community and Home Options to Institutional Care for the Elderly and Disabled). The program helps families care for older adults and the disabled in their own homes, and aims to keep Hoosiers out of nursing homes. The program provides funding for services such as respite care, congregate meals, transportation services or adult day care, among other services.

Rich Miller, Vice President of the Nevada Alliance, is the main speaker at a press conference today in Las Vegas protesting Governor Brian Sandoval’s proposed tax increase on seniors. The budget of Gov. Sandoval (R) contains plans to eliminate the Senior Citizens’ Property Tax Assistance program. Although the Governor has pledged no new taxes, eliminating this vital program will result in tax increases for 17,000 Nevada seniors. “This governor has shown no compassion – none whatsoever – for senior citizens,” said Scotty Watts, president of the Nevada Alliance. “He has picked on those from the lowest income brackets. It’s appalling.”

Spotlight on Dan Fonte – Alliance activist in Canton, Ohio

Dan Fonte is an Ohio Alliance activist and leader in Canton, Ohio. Seven years ago, he retired as the business manager of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 94 after 24 years working there. Currently, he serves as the director of the Harry Mayfield Senior Center in South Canton. On January 10th, at Walsh University in North Canton, Fonte confronted newly elected Congressman Jim Renacci (R) on repealing health reform. It’s well worth a watch here:http://bit.ly/e8MWSm. Fonte’s confrontation and questions prompted Cleveland’s Plain Dealer to construct a “PolitiFact” check on Renacci’s statement that there are “a half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare that are going to go into place as a result of health care reform”; the “truthometer” generously rated Renacci’s statement as “barely true” http://bit.ly/hfmQKI. Fonte says that he stands up to Representatives like Jim Renacci on issues such as health care and Social Securityhttp://bit.ly/fsbtCL out of respect for future generations, stating, “Not everybody’s gonna get pulled up by their bootstraps.” More on Dan Fonte here: http://bit.ly/gtofQs.

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