political notebook

Harry Reid rebukes senator

Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid complained Thursday that “anarchists have taken over” the Senate after a Republican senator blocked business on an energy bill to demand a vote on an unrelated health care measure.

“We’re in a position here where people who don’t believe in government, and that’s what the Tea Party is all about, are winning,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor.

Among the amendments to the energy bill that have not received a vote is one sponsored by Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, that would require more information in utility bills that he says will help consumers save money and power by taking advantage of price changes in power throughout the course of a day.


Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, said he would block any votes on amendments to an energy efficiency bill unless the Senate agrees to consider his bill that would remove federal subsidies for health care coverage for members of Congress, employees of the executive branch, and their employees, and instead require them to purchase insurance from exchanges.

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“No special deal, no special exemption, no special subsidy,” Vitter said on the floor, explaining why he wants a vote on a measure favored by many opponents of President Obama’s health law.

Vitter rose many times throughout the day to argue in favor of his demand, and object to attempts by Democrats to schedule votes. He said he would stop his objections if Democrats scheduled a vote on the health care measure any time before Oct. 1, when much of Obama’s health law is scheduled to be implemented.

“What I’m looking for here in the Senate is simply to lock down and be assured of one fair up or down vote on this crucial issue,” Vitter said.

Reid announced just after 3 p.m. Thursday that the Senate would not take any votes until next week, leaving the dispute unresolved.




House OK’s bill banning health insurance subsidies

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill Thursday to ban new subsidies to help people buy health insurance until the Obama administration enacts a new verification system to ensure benefits go only to those who are eligible.

Democrats say the bill, which has no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate, would unnecessarily delay subsidies slated to start next year. The White House has threatened a veto.

Thursday’s vote was the 41st by House Republicans to repeal, defund, or change the health care law since it was passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote. A few changes have been enacted, but the effort has largely been unsuccessful.

The 235-191 vote was mostly along party lines.


This week, House Republican leaders delayed voting on a bill to fund the government beyond the end of the month after some GOP lawmakers complained the measure didn’t adequately withhold funding for the health care law. If the impasse persists, it could result in a partial government shutdown at the end of the month.

‘‘Delay, defund, repeal, replace. That is exactly what we want to do, because this law has become so amazingly unpopular with the American people,’’ said Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican.

Under the law, many low- and middle-income families that don’t get health insurance through work will be eligible for subsidies to help buy insurance through state-based exchanges. Eligibility is based on income.


Associated Press

Kennedy Center unveils this year’s five honorees

WASHINGTON — Acclaimed actress Shirley MacLaine and four musicians spanning rock, jazz, and opera — Billy Joel, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, and Martina Arroyo — will receive this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, considered the nation’s highest honor for those who influence American culture through the arts.

The honorees were announced Thursday. In December, President Obama will host the recipients at the White House, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry will host a dinner for them at the State Department. Top entertainers will salute the honorees in a gala performance Dec. 8 to be broadcast Dec. 29 on CBS.

In an interview, Santana said he was very grateful and happy to be in the company of luminaries and to receive an award he remembers watching almost every year with his family.


Associated Press