Entries in Reform (16)


McCain Tweets Support for Push on Immigration Reform

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Failed attempts at immigration reform are nothing new on Capitol Hill, but there is some indication a new post-election tone might help pave the way for lawmakers and the White House to move toward a comprehensive plan.

In his election night acceptance speech President Barack Obama specifically mentioned that in his second-term he will try again to fix the nation’s immigration system. Failure to get an immigration reform bill was his “biggest failure” the president told Univision back in September.

The election’s results may point to a political will across the nation that could align Republicans with the White House’s ambitions. Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate and favored Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney by a 44-point margin.

Some Republicans this week have spoken out more favorably about working towards a comprehensive plan. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted on Friday that he supports “calls for comprehensive immigration reform.” McCain had been the chief Republican backer of a comprehensive plan that provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But that was before his run for president and a reelection battle in 2010 that saw him shift more toward the right on the issue. But Friday’s tweet indicates a new mindset for McCain.

In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner also expressed a willingness to tackle immigration.

“This issue has been around far too long,” Boehner said. “A comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that immigration reform falls “very high” on his priority list for the new session of Congress. “Only thing we need to get immigration reform done are a few Republican votes,” Reid said Wednesday after the election, "I get 90 percent of the Democrats. Couldn’t we get a few Republicans to join us? So it’s high on my list. And we’re going to have some votes on it.”

Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was “very optimistic” about the prospects for immigration reform because the election had served as a “wake-up call” for his GOP colleagues.

Congress will be back in session next week, but lawmakers likely would not turn their attention to immigration reform until next year at the earliest.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Upending Welfare Reform? Obama Criticized for Giving States More Flexibility

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After the Obama administration announced this week that it is opening up waivers to states from the work requirements contained in welfare reform, Republicans began to speak out against the move, complaining it completely undercuts the law.

“The success of bipartisan welfare reform, passed under President Clinton, has rested on the obligation of work,” Gov. Mitt Romney wrote in a statement Friday. “The president’s action is completely misdirected. Work is a dignified endeavor, and the linkage of work and welfare is essential to prevent welfare from becoming a way of life.”

Under the 1996 law, able-bodied adults have been required to work, seek employment, take classes, or undergo drug and alcohol counseling in exchange for taxpayer-funded payments known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. About four million Americans currently receive TANF payments.

The Department of Health and Human Services believes the waivers would help parents “successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.” The department encouraged states to begin testing a range of new strategies, policies and procedures designed to improve employment outcomes for the needy.

The move gives states the ability to apply for waivers, but those applications would still have to be approved by the secretary. Two states with GOP governors -- Utah and Nevada -- have submitted requests for a waiver so far, while three additional states -- Connecticut, Minnesota and California -- have asked about the potential for waivers.

“This new flexibility will strengthen welfare reform rules and the effectiveness of state efforts to connect families with work. Waivers that weaken or undercut welfare reform will not be approved,” George Shelton, an assistant secretary at HHS, wrote in a blog. “Waivers that seek to avoid time limits or other federal restrictions on when assistance may be provided will not be approved. “

But Congressional Republicans decried the move as “a blatant violation of the law” and contend the waivers will actually cause harm to the impoverished Americans because beneficiaries will come to rely on the handout with little motivation to seek employment.

“By waiving the law’s requirements, President Obama will make it harder for Americans to escape poverty,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement. “He is hurting the very people he claims to help.”

Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top-ranked Republican on the Senate Finance committee, wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius jointly demanding an explanation of the decision and also questioned her authority to do it, contending that the law indicates that states cannot waive TANF work requirements.

Camp, one of the original authors of the legislation, called the move “a brazen and unwarranted unraveling” of the law that “ends welfare reform as we know it.”

“Welfare reform provided states a simple deal: fixed federal funding and enormous flexibility in exchange for a requirement that they engage welfare recipients in work and related activities,” Camp, R-Mich., wrote in a statement. “In response, states helped record numbers of low-income parents go to work, earnings soared, and dependence on welfare and poverty plunged by record levels.”

“It is akin to a child who doesn’t get what he or she wants, so they take their ball and go home,” Rep. Tim Scott, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, stated. “You don’t improve people’s lives with handouts, you improve people’s lives by showing them, as I learned growing up in the inner city in a single parent household, that you can think and work your way out of poverty.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Federal Appeals Court Upholds Health Care Reform Law

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The decision marks the first time an appellate court has weighed in on the issue and also the first time a judge, appointed by a Republican president, has voted to uphold the law.

The case stems from a challenge from the Thomas More Center, a public interest law firm, and four Michigan residents who claimed that the individual mandate -- the portion of the law that requires individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty -- is unconstitutional.

In his opinion Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said the law is constitutional under the Commerce Clause because the provision "regulates economic activity" with a "substantial" effect on interstate commerce.

"In addition," he wrote, "Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in heath care and health insurance."

Martin, who was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter, was joined in the decision by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush. Before Wednesday, every other judge who had voted to uphold the law was nominated by a Democratic president and those who voted against it were nominated by a Republican president.

This will not be the only federal appeals court ruling on the law. A federal appeals court in Virginia appeared more skeptical of the law when it heard arguments in May.

The question raised by these cases about the Affordable Care Act - whether the government has the authority to make citizens buy health insurance or pay a fine - is almost assured a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pawlenty Dials Back 'Obamneycare' in New Hampshire

ABC News(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty coined a word Sunday -- Obamneycare -- and he has spent the past day trying not to repeat it.

Reporters following Pawlenty around New Hampshire have asked him if this new word, tying frontrunning Republican Tim Pawlenty to President Obama on health care reform, signals a newly-combative Republican contest and if Pawlenty will stir the pot at Monday's debate.

ABC's Aaron Katersky asked Pawlenty about the "Obamneycare" statement outside Caesario's pizza parlor in Manchester. Pawlenty did not repeat the term.

"I was just asked a question that related to similarities between what Obamacare was and what they did in Massachusetts and reiterating the president's own words that he looked to Massachusetts to merge or blend those proposals. That the president said he looked to Massachusetts as the blueprint for his plan."

Asked if he would use the term during Monday's debate, Pawlenty said "probably not."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Democrats Want Paul Ryan’s Medicare Reform Plan 'Off the Table'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a letter to Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, five Democratic senators call for the Paul Ryan Medicare reform plan to "remain off the table," as the budget and deficit negotiations over raising the debt ceiling go forward.

"We encourage you to remain unwavering in opposition to this scheme. For the good of the nation’s seniors, it must remain off the table," the Democratic Senators write, "we will never allow any effort to dismantle the program and force benefit cuts upon seniors under the guise of deficit reduction."

The letter has been signed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

On Thursday Vice President Biden will hold the fifth round of debt talks -- this time on the Hill, rather than in the Blair House.

The administration has come out against the Medicare reforms in the GOP's plan – authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, but the Senators on Monday insist that this is a non starter, and stress to the vice president that they must not be a point of negotiation during the continuing debt ceiling talks.

Republicans insist that Medicare reform is very much part of the debt ceiling talks, and many -- including Ryan -- have accused leading Democrats of a "Mediscare" campaign to frighten seniors into thinking his plan strips seniors of their benefits.

Last week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC News that cuts to seniors' benefits are "absolutely" off the table in the ongoing deficit reduction negotiations but suggested that Congress could improve Medicare by working to eliminate fraud and also by giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services unilateral authority to negotiate for lower prices for the endangered entitlement program.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Medicare reform plan authored by Ryan would be "on the table" in negotiations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Unveils Economic Plan

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Newly-minted presidential candidate Newt Gingrich debuted his “Jobs and Prosperity Plan” Friday in Washington, D.C., touting his experience as Speaker of the House during the 1990’s and his work with the Reagan administration’s economic team as key indicators of his ability to carry out economic change.

The former speaker of the House, who presented the country with the Contract with America in 1994, has crafted an economic plan that aims to stop the 2013 tax increases, shift to an optional 15 percent flat tax for Americans by filing their taxes on a postcard, and create incentives like tax cuts to stimulate greater business investment in the U.S.

His plan also intends to repeal and replace the health care reform law signed by President Obama, strengthen the U.S. dollar, implement an American energy policy, and strip regulations, programs and bureaucracies impeding job creation.

Gingrich promised to balance the federal budget and reform entitlement programs -- two initiatives he conquered during his time as speaker of the House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama on Immigration: Can't Have 'Amnesia' About How We Got Here

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking before the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., President Obama said Thursday that while it may be tempting to think of immigrants as different, Americans ought not have “amnesia” about how they got here.

“It can be tempting to think that those coming to America today are somehow different from us. And we need to not get -- have amnesia about how we populated this country,” President Obama said quoting a verse in the Book of Deuteronomy about loving the stranger. “What this verse reminds us to do is to look at that migrant farmer and see our own grandfather disembarking at Ellis Island or Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, and to look at that young mother newly arrived in this country and see our own grandmother leaving Italy or Ireland or Eastern Europe in search of something better.”

The occasion to speak at the annual breakfast gave President Obama the opportunity to again address comprehensive immigration reform, just three days after delivering a major speech, political in nature, in El Paso, Texas, meant to create momentum for reform.

“I know there are some folks who wish I could just bypass Congress,” Obama said to laughter, noting that some in the room have been frustrated with his pace of change on this issue, not meeting his original goal to pass comprehensive reform his first year in office. “I can't. Well, what I can do is sign a law. What you can do is champion a law. What we can do together is make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land. That's what we can do. “

The president is in the middle of a big push for reform, following five meetings with supporters this month, meant to create an army so-to-speak to mobilize and put pressure on Congress.

He said that comprehensive reform is not only an “economic imperative or a security imperative, it's also a moral imperative.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Previews Health Care Plan Ahead Of Speech

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney has posted USA Today op-ed laying out the broad outlines of his health care plan and previewing themes he will address in his speech Thursday at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

As he has said before, Romney writes, “If I am elected president, I will issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states. Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare.”

He proposes five steps to reform the current system: (1) Give states the responsibility, flexibility and resources to care for citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill; (2) Reform the tax code to promote the individual ownership of health insurance; (3) Focus federal regulation of health care on making markets work; (4) Reform medical liability; (5) Make health care more like a consumer market and less like a government program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney to Lay Out Health Reform Plan Thursday

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Massachusetts Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will outline his approach to health care reform in Michigan on Thursday, announcing a plan to “repeal and replace” the law that Democrats enacted last year.

As governor in 2006, Romney signed Massachusetts’ bipartisan health reform law. It required everyone in the state to obtain health insurance and became a model for the controversial law that national Democrats enacted for the entire country in 2010.

The speech Thursday at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center will focus on “rolling out his plan to repeal and replace” the national health care law, according to one senior aide.

Romney’s greatest hurdle as a Republican presidential candidate will be squaring his status as the father of health reform in Massachusetts with the near-unanimous opposition the national law faces among Republicans.

A Romney adviser tells ABC News that he will address his own record on health care reform but that it won’t be a major focus of his speech. Look for Romney to continue his federalism defense: the plan he enacted was right for Massachusetts, but not for the entire country.

Romney will try to differentiate him from the rest of the Republican field by offering something concrete with which to replace the health reform law.

A press release lays out his “2012 Principles for Health Reform”:

  • Restore to the states the responsibility and resources to care for their poor, uninsured, and chronically ill.
  • Give a tax deduction to those who buy their own health insurance, just like those who buy it through their employers.
  • Streamline the federal regulation of healthcare.
  • Reduce the influence of lawsuits on medical practice and costs.
  • Make healthcare more like a consumer market and less like a government program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Big Break for Health Care Reform?

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- As Justice Department lawyers prepare to defend the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that the arguments -- which mark the first time a challenge to the health care law has been heard by a federal appeals court -- will be heard by three judges who were all appointed by Democratic presidents.

Up until now, the three lower court judges who have ruled in favor of the health care law were appointed by Democratic presidents, and the two who have struck down the law's central provision were nominated by Republican presidents. Now, for the first time, the challenge to the law will be heard by a three-judge appeals court panel; two of the judges were appointed by President Obama and one by President Clinton. The judges are: Diana Motz (Clinton), Andre Davis (Obama) and James Wynn (Obama).

While significant, this does not guarantee a victory for the administration. There is precedent for a judge appointed by a president from one party to rule in a way that might seem favorable to the opposing party.

A statement from the court explained that the judges were assigned by random selection: "The clerk of the court maintains a list of mature cases available for oral argument and on a monthly basis merges those cases with a list of three judge panels provided by a computer program designed to achieve random selection."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio