Health Care Reform 'Baton' Passed to Doubtful Senate

Celebration over the narrow passing of a health care reform bill by members of the House Saturday was short-lived, as few Democratic moderates in the Senate view the plan as acceptable.

 Though President Obama said Saturday that he looked forward to signing comprehensive health insurance reform into law by the end of the year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has yet to schedule floor debate and hinted last week that senators may not be able to finish health care this year.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters, meanwhile, told The Associated Press that "as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote."

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"The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate," added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "It was a bill written by liberals for liberals."

The picture on Saturday had looked much brighter, with conservatives hailing the passing of an anti-abortion amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act, H.R. 3962, as a big victory.

The amendment, accepted just before the House passed H.R. 3962, maintains the current policy of preventing federal funding for abortion and for benefits packages that include abortion.

It also clarifies that individuals – both those who receive affordability credits and those who do not – can with their own funds purchase separate supplemental coverage for elective abortions and private plans that do not receive government subsidies may still offer elective abortions.

"This (the amendment's passage) is a huge pro-life victory for women, their unborn children, and families," commented Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a statement. "We applaud this House vote which prohibits the abortion industry from further profiting from taxpayers by using government funds to pay for the gruesome act of abortion. I congratulate the bipartisan coalition that for months has worked to ensure that abortion is not covered in the bill. "

Notably, however, Perkins and other conservative leaders still view H.R. 3962 as a "seriously flawed piece of legislation."

The bill, backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), still allows rationing of health care for seniors, raises health costs for families, mandates that families purchase under threat of fines and penalties, encourages counseling for assisted suicide in some states, does not offer broad conscience protections for health care workers and seeks to insert the federal government into all aspects of citizen's lives, Perkins noted.

"Speaker Pelosi is using the guise of health care reform to push her version of social engineering onto American taxpayers. Additionally, the legislation would place a crushing debt on both current and future generations," he added.

The price tag on the House plan is about $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Despite growing skepticism, President Obama urged the Senate Sunday to "take the baton" on health care reform "and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people."

"I'm absolutely confident that they will," Obama said. "I'm equally convinced that on the day that we gather here at the White House and I sign comprehensive health insurance reform legislation into law, they'll be able to join their House colleagues and say this was their finest moment in public service."

Since Obama stepped into office, health care reform has been the president's top domestic priority.

On Saturday, House Speaker Pelosi compared the legislation to the passage of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later.

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