Republicans fight on to kill health bill

FACED with the threat of round- the-clock sessions on the health care bill, hardline Senate Republicans last night indicated they would drop their delaying tactics which have prevented a single vote on the issue, and present a flood of amendments which they claim will kill off the measure anyway.

As speeches droned on in a half- deserted chamber, the prospect of real reform this session was shrivelling. The best chance of resuscitating what was to have been the centrepiece of President Bill Clinton's political programme now lies in yet another revamp of the measure, to win over an emerging group of Democrat and Republican moderates. Even so, the chances of success look slim.

A summer recess that should have started last weekend will now be delayed for a fortnight at least, and tempers are wearing thin. For most of yesterday, Republicans continued their stalling, with long floor speeches designed to waste as much time as possible. The one gleam of hope was the frantic backstage efforts to meld the watered down bill of Senate Majority leader George Mitchell now under debate, with even less ambitious proposals from the new bipartisan 'Mainstream' bloc of centrists from both parties. But one 'Mainstream' Republican said the group was still 'light years' from the Mitchell draft.

Even among themselves, Democrats are deeply divided. If Mr Mitchell makes further concessions, he risks losing the backing of liberals who insist on broad- based reform and a clear timetable for universal coverage. Further confusing matters are separate plans for a minimalist version of the bill, confined to changes in insurance that would lower rates and make it harder for insurers to refuse coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Part of the problem lies in the laxer rules of the Senate, which require a 60-40 majority to push through a guillotine motion to cut off debate. Alas for Mr Mitchell, there are only 56 Democratic Senators. Republicans, always the more disciplined party, can mount filibusters to veto any controversial legislation they choose.

Anxious to avoid blame for health reform's demise, Republicans piously maintain that Healthcare is too important and complex an issue to rush. Far better to wait until next session - by which time, mid-term elections may have given Republicans outright control of the Senate. But on Monday evening, even the long- suffering Mr Mitchell's patience ran out. The Senate had the choice of starting to vote last night, or remaining in continuous session indefinitely.

At the other end of Capitol Hill, the adminstration was desperately seeking to salvage its other main legislative goal, the crime bill which the House torpedoed last Thursday. Its arithmetic is less complicated than health care, but its politics, perhaps more so.

After the 225-210 vote defeat, in which 58 Democrats voted against him, the President must persuade at least eight Congressmen to change their minds. Last night White House officials were confident they could pull it off, as Mr Clinton personally lobbied members of the House black caucus, and Chief of Staff Leon Panetta went to Capitol Hill to tackle other Democratic waverers.

The White House hopes to hold a fresh vote tomorrow and after days of emotional invective against Republicans and the National Rifle Association, Mr Clinton signalled a readiness to compromise on the dollars 33bn ( pounds 22bn) measure. But he insists the final bill must include the ban on 19 types of assault weapons which is anathema to the NRA, the 'three strikes and you're out' provision for criminals, and money for 100,000 more police. But he may have to abandon some of the socially-orientated provisions of the bill - such as the 'midnight basketball' funding which hardline Republicans love to mock.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Payroll Officer - Part Time

£12047 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Part Time Payroll Officer required for t...

Recruitment Genius: Event Management and Marketing Admin Support

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot