Updated 10:18 am Eastern Time
New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said on CBS' "The Early Show" Monday morning that a bill to provide health care for first responders to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has the votes to pass thanks in part to a decision to reduce the cost of the bill from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion.
She said "we have the support we need" to win passage immediately following a planned Senate vote on the New Start treaty.
"We've been working very hard for many months and over the last several weeks on really addressing some of the concerns that my Republican colleagues had about the bill," Gillibrand told "Early Show" co-anchor Jeff Glor. "That's why we changed how we are paying for the bill. We've also changed the total amount of the bill to reflect the fact that we've just had a settlement and some more funds are getting to these first responders. I believe we have the package we need to really have a Christmas miracle, what we're aiming for."
Gillbrand said a bill to cover the health care of first responders is essential to provide care to "the men and women that were racing up the towers when everybody was coming down, and they're the ones who tried to find survivors and then remained."
"These are the men who have sacrificed so much," she said. "And I can tell you a lot of them are dying right now, dying of terrible cancers and other diseases and it's heartbreaking because these men are young, these men and women are very young."
Gillibrand pointed to 29 New York City police officers who have died because of diseases picked up in the dust at the twin towers site, and said their average age was just 46.
"So, these are men and women that are being cut down in the prime of their lives because of their heroism, because they responded when duty called," she told Glor.
Researchers and first responders say exposure to the twin towers site immediately following the attacks is responsible for asthma problems and other illnesses, though some have questioned to what degree the exposure can be blamed for such health problems.Continue »
The Pulitzer Prize winning website, which is associated with the St. Petersburg Times, noted in announcing the award that "it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers."
"It is true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurance. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market," the site said.
Politifact noted that it is not weighing in on the validity or effectiveness of the health care law itself, but rather on the truthfulness of the characterization of it. It noted that under the bill a majority of Americans will continue to get health coverage from their employers through private insurance companies, that the government did not take control over hospitals or doctors, and that the law did not include a public option, whereby a government run insurance plan would compete with private companies.
PolitFact editor Bill Adair appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" Friday morning to discuss the award, saying that the health care claim is "ridiculously false."
"The plan relies on private insurance companies (and) in fact private insurance companies are actually going to end up with more business because of the law. It was definitely the most pervasive falsehood of the year," he told NPR's Steve Inskeep.Continue »
Yesterday's ruling by a Virginia federal district court judge that a portion of the health care law is unconstitutional was undeniably good news for Republicans, who got at least some cover for their longstanding claims that the overhaul reflects government overreach.
Opposition to the law has been a boon to the party: The GOP's victories in the midterm elections were driven in large part by opposition to the law among older Americans concerned with what it will mean for their care. Despite an aggressive sales job, the Obama administration has yet to see its prediction that Americans will warm to the reforms.
Republicans are now calling for the matter to be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court. That's not likely to happen, but the question of its constitutionality is almost sure to eventually make it there. When it does, it will be a pivotal moment for the country: A debate and decision in America's highest court over whether to turn back one of the defining policy initiatives of the Obama presidency.
The issue decided yesterday involved not the overall law but rather the part of it that mandates that all Americans have health insurance, known as the individual mandate. If the Supreme Court agrees with the Virginia judge that that tenet of the law cannot stand, it destroys a crucial plank of the overall legislation.
But what it does not do is invalidate the entire law - and therein lies a problem for Republicans, as Jonathan Chait notes. That's because the individual mandate is actually the health care industry's favorite part of the bill. The reason? If you tell health care companies they can't discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, the industry needs some mechanism to make sure people don't simply decide not to buy health insurance until they get sick. That's what the individual mandate was designed to do - to eliminate the so-called "free rider problem" that arises when health care companies are no longer allowed to deny coverage to certain Americans.Continue »
In the wake of a federal judge's decision that a key tenet of President Obama's health care reforms is unconstitutional, some Democrats are speaking out in defense of the law, with some critics charging that the ruling is all about politics.
Republicans and opponents of the law, meanwhile, say the decision vindicates their arguments that the health care overhaul overstepped constitutional boundaries and represents government overreach.
If anything is clear from the ruling, it's that the debate over President Obama's health care reforms are far from over.
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the bill's requirement for every American to acquire health insurance, which is known as the individual mandate, "exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power." The Obama administration has argued the individual mandate is constitutional under interstate commerce rules, but the judge rejected that argument.
White House official Stephanie Cutter reiterated the White House's arguments on the White House blog today and sought to downplay the ruling.
"History and the facts are on our side," she wrote. "Similar legal challenges to major new laws -- including the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act -- were all filed and all failed. Contrary to what opponents argue the new law falls well within Congress's power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause."
Cutter also pointed out that Hudson's ruling does not interrupt the implementation of the rest of the health care law. The individual mandate is not slated to kick in until 2014.Continue »
This article was written by attorney and "CBS Evening News" researcher Paula Reid
The bipartisan national debt commission touts medical malpractice reform as a way to contain soaring health care costs. But even if all of these reforms were enacted the total savings would be just a tiny fraction a percent of the total national debt.
The panel focuses on the system through which damages are collected after a person is injured or killed. Malpractice suits are supposed to prevent medical errors and to compensate patients and their families for losses incurred as a result. Critics argue that malpractice suits increase insurance premiums for doctors and result in unnecessary -- and expensive -- tests and services to avoid exposure to lawsuits. This increases the cost of health care.
The bipartisan national debt commission highlights medical malpractice reform as a way to contain health care costs and reduce the deficit, saving taxpayers $17 billion by 2020.
There have been dozens of unsuccessful attempts at malpractice reform over the last decade.Continue »
Former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) may be remembered as a champion of health care reform, but not by Jimmy Carter.
In an interview with CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante, the former president said he doesn't have "any doubt" that Kennedy stood in the way of his administration's plans for national health care insurance.
"I had worked very carefully with the leaders of the five committees," Mr. Carter said. "And they were all cooperating with me. We were writing the legislation for pretty much comprehensive health care."
"We had the full support and intimate involvement of Senator Kennedy and Senator Long, who was also a chairman of a major committee in the Senate and the three chairman of the committees in the House. They were all working with me," Mr. Carter continued.
"At the last minute, the same week we were going to reveal what we have finally come forward to present to the entire Congress and the public, Senator Kennedy decided not to support it," he said.
Watch the video of Mr. Carter on Tuesday's "Washington Unplugged" above to the left.
In his newest book "White House Diary," Mr. Carter describes Kennedy's withdrawal "a very great disappointment to me" -- and cites it as the reason his health care bill died.
"It could have been a major step forward at that time which unfortunately did not happen," Mr. Carter said on CBSNews.com's "Washington Unplugged."Continue »
Rep.-elect Andy Harris is the target of a new radio and Facebook campaign aimed at portraying the incoming Republican and his colleagues as hypocrites on the subject of health care.
Harris caught the attention of Capitol Hill last week when he complained that he would not receive his government-provided health care fast enough. The conservative Maryland doctor was one of many Republicans this year who campaigned against President Obama's health care reforms, so Democrats seized on his complaint and sought to portray Harris and others as hypocrites.
Now the liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change is pressing that message with a new campaign directed at Harris' constituents.
The group today launched a radio ad that will air this week in Maryland markets. "Call Congressman Harris and tell him to stop whining about his healthcare and start fighting for ours," a woman says in the ad. "If he wants to deny Maryland families quality, affordable healthcare, tell him to start with his own."
The campaign also includes a Facebook ad targeting residents of Maryland's first district that directs visitors to a website with the heading "America Got Scammed." It urges visitors to sign a petition to "tell the Republicans they have no more right to health care than we do. Tell them to drop the coverage they get through the government or stop this cynical, politically motivated attempt to take it away from the American people."Continue »
First, at a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal scholar group, McConnell said that unless Republicans can kill health care reform legislation, America could be headed for a tyrannical police state, reports Talking Points Memo.
"By preventing the accumulation of excessive power, the Constitution is designed to reduce the risk of tyranny or abuse at either the Federal or state levels," McConnell said. "The health care bill would remove an important bulwark of this protection. So fighting this mandate couldn't be more important."
Additionally, Sen. McConnell came out against a $1 trillion-plus spending bill that Democrats are trying to push through Congress to avoid a governmental shutdown in December.
The Senate hasn't passed a single spending bill for the budget year that began almost two months ago, the Associated Press reports. Ten of 12 House bills haven't even been made public.
Sen. McConnell says voters have sent a message that they don't want lawmakers to put together massive legislation behind closed doors. His opposition makes passage of the spending bill difficult, as Democrats would need at least a couple of Republicans to push it through the Senate.
Congress needs to pass a stopgap spending bill by Dec. 3 to avoid a shutdown of most of the government.
Since the Midterm elections earlier this month, Sen. McConnell has positioned himself prominently against Democratic ideas.
Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET with a statement from AHIP
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the biggest detractors of President Obama's health care overhaul, was largely funded by a single donation from health insurers last year, according to a report from Bloomberg News.
Tax records disclosed this week showed that the Chamber, a business lobbying group, received a donation of $86.2 million from a single group in 2009. The Chamber is not required to disclose its donors, but unnamed sources told Bloomberg that the money came from America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry trade group that represents companies like Cigna and UnitedHealth Group.
AHIP's donation accounted for more than 40 percent of the contributions the Chamber received in 2009, which totaled $205.4 million. The Chamber and its combined affiliates had revenues of $261.1 million in 2009.
Tom Collamore, senior vice president of communications for the Chamber, told Hotsheet that the business group strongly backs the privacy of its member companies and would not confirm that the donation came from AHIP. However, Collamore said the contributions it received supported the Chamber's "efforts to advance a market-based health care system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs for all Americans."
The Chamber used the money for public opinion polling, nationwide grassroots mobilization, national advertising, media outreach and other efforts related to advancing its agenda on health care reform.
AHIP spokesperson Robert Zirkelbach said in a statement to the Hotsheet that AHIP chose to invest in advocacy in 2009 to try and preserve the employer-based health care system, ensure those who like their coverage can keep it and reduce medical costs.
"While the new law helps millions of people obtain coverage, it fails to bend the health care cost curve," he said.
Meanwhile, the group ChamberWatch, a watchdog group formed by labor unions, railed against the Chamber for doing the bidding of one industry.Continue »
A group of House Democrats has released a letter to Republican congressional leaders calling on them to announce which of their members will be forgoing their congressional benefit health insurance (which is subsidized by the government) in light of their party's opposition to health care reform overhaul legislation.
"If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable health care, your members should walk that walk," four Democrats write in the letter, which is addressed to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader John Boehner. "You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves, and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don't happen to be Members of Congress."
According to the letter, the federal government pays more than $10,000 of the premiums of each member of Congress who has a family policy under the most selected plan.
The signatories on the letter are four liberal lawmakers: Joseph Crowley of New York, Linda T. Sanchez of California, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Tim Ryan of Ohio. They sent a separate letter to other Democratic colleagues asking them to sign onto the effort.
The Democrats say they were spurred to press Republicans to announce their position by news that Andy Harris, a conservative incoming Republican House freshman, had complained that he would not receive his government-subsidized health care coverage until Feb. 1, a month after he is sworn into office.Continue »
Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET
A conservative Maryland doctor who was elected to Congress this month after running against President Obama's health care overhaul raised some eyebrows on Capitol Hill Monday by inquiring about the status of his own government-provided health care, Politico reports.
Republican Andy Harris of Maryland's first congressional district was surprised to learn during yesterday's freshman orientation that he would not receive his government-subsidized health care coverage until Feb. 1, a month after he is sworn into office.
"He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care," a congressional staffer told Politico.
According to Harris' spokesperson Anna Nix, Harris was pointing out the inefficiency of government-run health care. Nix said Harris said that "This is the only employer I've ever worked for where you don't get coverage the first day you are employed."Continue »
As Republicans prepare to exert more control in Congress and mount a challenge to President Obama, they are building a strategy to attempt to follow through on their promise to dismantle the health care law signed by the president in March - which they deem "Obamacare." Members of the GOP are stepping up their support for lawsuits challenging the Democrats' health care reform package, planning ways to pick apart at unpopular provisions in the bill, and preparing for a series of congressional hearings to put new scrutiny on the legislation.
One of the boldest challenges to the law underway is a lawsuit by 20 states seeking to void the health care overhaul. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 GOP presidential contender, filed a motion on Thursday, asking a federal judge to allow him to file a friend of the court brief in the legal battle. Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri joined Pawlenty in filing the brief.
When asked on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday whether repealing the health care overhaul would be a major part of his platform in a potential presidential run, Pawlenty answered in the affirmatively. He's already taken steps to thwart the bill's implementation in Minnesota.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell this week also declared his intention to file a friend of the court brief in the "Obamacare" challenge and urged his Republican colleagues to join him. The case is expected to ultimately go before the Supreme Court.
McConnell said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that the Republicans "owe it to the American people" to try to repeal health care reform.Continue »
CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
According to the new CBS News poll, many Americans (though not a majority) are on board. Forty-five percent say Congress should try to repeal the law, while 44 percent say lawmakers should not do so. More than three in four Republicans say Congress should aim for repeal.
Before settling on an aggressive push for repeal, however - something that is more or less impossible with a Democrat in the White House - Republicans might want to take a look at another finding in the poll. Asked what the new Congress should concentrate on, just 14 percent of Americans chose health care. That puts the issue far behind jobs and the economy, selected by 56 percent of Americans.
And therein lies the risk for Republicans. Democrats appear to have suffered at the polls because of their decision to focus on health care at a time when the economy was suffering; in a CBS News poll in July, nearly four in ten Americans said the president had spent too much time on health care. In the same poll, more than half said he had spent too little time on the economy.Continue »
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who fought off tough challenge from Tea Party-backed Ken Buck last week, said in an interview this morning that he expects the Senate to continue working on improving health care reform.
"I think we will," Bennet said in an interview on NPR. "I think we didn't do enough the first time around on cost containment. There's more to be done there, to change the Medicare incentive structure."
Bennet sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, one of the Senate panels responsible in large part for shaping the original package of reforms, which passed in March.
Over the summer, a CBS News poll showed that 39 percent of Americans said President Obama had spent too much time working on health care reform -- an issue that took Congress and the administration months to finish.
No one in Congress seems ready to drop the issue, however. After making strong gains in the midterms, Republicans say they will follow through on their promise to try and repeal the reforms.Continue »
President Obama said at a press conference Wednesday that while he is willing to work with Republicans to refine the health care bill, it would be "misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years."
Republican have almost universally called for the bill to be repealed and replaced, and nearly half of voters in exit polls yesterday said they favored repeal. Incoming Republican House speaker John Boehner is claiming a mandate to repeal the bill.
The president addressed those exit polls, saying they also show that "one out of two voters think it was the right thing to do."
He said while "we can tweak and make improvements on the progress that we've made," as with any legislation, he doesn't think Americans want to repeal popular provisions like barring insurers from refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions or dropping people when they get sick.Continue »