Thursday, May 21, 2009


GOP offers other health care bills

Republicans rolled out two health care bills Wednesday, both of which avoid a public insurance plan favored by many Democrats.

The Patients Choice Act, sponsored by a group of conservative Republicans in the House and Senate, would allow each state to set up health insurance exchanges made up of private health insurers. Consumers could purchase insurance through the exchange with a tax credit of $2,200 for individuals and $5,700 for families.

The plan would be funded by taxing employer-provided health care plans, an idea that has generated controversy.

The current system was set up for people who stayed with one job - and one health insurance benefit - most of their lives, which isn’t the case today, said Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and one of the bill’s sponsors.

“As a practicing physician, I have seen firsthand how giving government more control over health care has failed to make health care more affordable and accessible,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors.

Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that’s writing a health care bill, said the tax on employer-provided plans would ruin private insurers.

“It’s basically what we’re doing,” Mr. Baucus said. “The only difference - the big difference - is he wants to repeal the employer [tax benefits]. It would destroy the insurance system in America as you know it. Otherwise, most of it is areas of reform that we’ve already provided for.”

Another group of Republicans took a more contrarian approach, introducing a bill that would in essence ban Democrats’ plans. Republican Reps. Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania announced a bill that would simply ban federal interference with private health insurance except in cases of existing Medicaid, Medicare, veterans or military health care.


Asian-American tops House rivals

LOS ANGELES | An Asian-American candidate emerged Tuesday as the leading contender to fill a U.S. House seat in an overwhelmingly Hispanic district.

Democrat Judy Chu topped a field of 12 candidates, making her the favorite to claim the seat in a July runoff. Democrats hold a more than 2 to 1 registration edge in the district.

With all precincts reporting, Ms. Chu had 31.9 percent, followed by fellow Democrat Gil Cedillo, a Hispanic state senator, with 23.4 percent.

Because no candidate got a majority, the top finishers in each party advance to a July 14 runoff.

The 32nd Congressional District seat has been in Hispanic hands since the 1980s. It was held by Hilda L. Solis until she resigned to become President Obama’s labor secretary.

The Republican winner, Betty Chu, shares Ms. Chu’s surname, setting up the possibility of a runoff that could be confusing for voters.


Judge undercuts terror detentions

A federal judge has ruled that the power of the president to hold terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay detention center is more limited than the administration would like, paving the way for a legal battle.

In his ruling, obtained by Agence France-Presse on Wednesday, Judge John Bates said the government cannot detain a person merely for having shown “substantial support” for the Taliban or al Qaeda.

“The government reliance on ‘substantial support’ as a basis for detention independent of membership in the Taliban, al Qaeda or an associated force is rejected,” Judge Bates wrote late Tuesday.

The notion of “substantial support” was put forward in March by the Justice Department as reason for the indefinite detentions of terrorist suspects without charge.

“There is at this time no justification in … the law of war for such an approach,” Judge Bates said.

“The government does, however, have the authority to detain ‘any person who has committed a belligerent act,’ ” he added.

Judge Bates is the fourth out of a dozen federal judges to give his view on the power of the president to detain inmates in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without trial. On the basis of his decision, he can decide whether to free some of the inmates.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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