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US Congressmen tone down health debate

The House of Representatives reconvened yesterday for the first time since the attempted assassination of one of its members, and staged a toned-down debate on a bill to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.

House Republicans were on track last night to keep their 2010 campaign vow and pass the bill. But their measure is certain to die in the Senate, which narrowly remains under Democrat control.

House members spoke forcefully but respectfully about the reform, a major victory for Mr Obama last year that is also one of the most divisive issues in the country. Rhetoric seemed to be without much of the fire that marked political debate prior to the shooting on 8 January in Tucson, Arizona, of Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed in an attack that prompted calls for politicians to tone down their rhetoric.

"In the wake of the recent tragedy in Tucson, we come together in a renewed commitment to civility," said Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. Some Republicans no longer referred to the healthcare overhaul as "a job killer" as they had done previously. Instead, they used such phrases as "job-stifling".

The House had planned to consider the repeal bill last week. But it was abruptly pulled from consideration after the shooting spree in Arizona. The accused gunman is a troubled college dropout.