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Congressional Democrats call ‘time-out’ on Obama’s health reforms

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Democrats retreated Tuesday from a quick push to pass President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, lacking a workable strategy to salvage the sweeping legislation that has consumed Congress for more than a year.

“There is no rush,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after a meeting of Senate Democrats. His comments came as two centrists said they would oppose the plan Democratic leaders were considering to reconcile differences between the House and Senate bills and put comprehensive legislation on Obama’s desk.

A week after the loss of a Massachusetts Senate seat — their 60th vote — cost Democrats undisputed control of the congressional agenda, leaders are still casting about for a way forward. Given the congressional schedule, it could be weeks — late February at the earliest — before they act.

“There are no easy choices,” acknowledged House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, insisting that the goal remains the same: to pass far-reaching legislation that would expand coverage, reduce costs and improve quality.

“I think right now it’s a time-out and the leadership is re-evaluating,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “They’ve asked us to keep our powder dry.”

“I think effectively we’re going to set health care reform aside,” said independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. “I don’t think they’re ready to move now because there’s no clear path forward.”

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Reid said he’ll keep talking with House Democrats and White House officials, noting that the Senate-passed bill is good for the year.

Two centrist senators threw up a new roadblock. Sens. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. — both face re-election this year in Republican-leaning states — said they would oppose using a special budget-related procedure to go around Republican opponents in the Senate, a calculated risk sure to inflame critics on the political right.

Even as Bayh and Lincoln made their concerns known, House Democratic leaders were trying to get their rank and file to accept a modified version of the Senate bill.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat, told reporters he believes the House could pass the Senate bill if lawmakers get rid of special Medicaid deals for Louisiana and Nebraska and dial back a tax on high-cost insurance plans opposed by labor unions.

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But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it “depends what the fixes are.”

Lawmakers hope Obama will help them find their way when the president delivers his State of the Union address Wednesday. Obama is unlikely to delve into the strategy for passing a health care bill, Hoyer said, but he is expected to stress the importance of getting comprehensive legislation along the lines of what the House and Senate already passed.

Democrats now have four options, Hoyer said: No bill, a scaled-back measure designed to attract some Republican support, the House passing the Senate bill, or the House passing the Senate bill with both chambers making changes to bridge their differences.

Opposition to the health care remake in Washington helped spark the Massachusetts revolt, Democrats acknowledge. Obama called the monthslong debate on Capitol Hill “an ugly process.”

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“It looks like there are a bunch of back-room deals,” the president said in an interview with ABC News.

Of the four options that Hoyer outlined, only one has been ruled out. Pelosi said last week she does not have the votes to pass the Senate bill without any changes.

Democratic leaders are coalescing around the idea of the House passing the Senate bill, with both chambers agreeing to follow-up legislation that would settle major differences.

The strategy calls for the Senate to use a budget-related procedure — reconciliation_ that requires only 51 votes to advance. Even so, leaders may not be able to round up the votes.

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“My concern is that if reconciliation is used, that will really destroy any prospects for bipartisan cooperation on anything else for the remainder of this year,” Bayh said. “That would be a regrettable state of affairs, something I think the American public would not react well to.”

“I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform through budget reconciliation,” Lincoln said in a statement.

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The right-wing scored more in years of Trump than eight years of George W. Bush: report

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President George W. Bush oversaw eight years that restricted rights, banned LGBTQ equality, appointed anti-choice judges and so much more. But under Donald Trump's presidency, social conservatives have managed to roll back any progress made by President Barack Obama's leadership.

A new Axios report listed out any anti-LGBTQ, anti-women and anti-poor policies.

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Pete Buttigieg says ‘statistically’ we’ve already had a gay president — meet President James Buchanan

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In an interview with Axios, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said that "statistically" it makes sense that out of the 45 presidents in American history, one of them was LGBT. Statistics aside, the reality is that former President James Buchanan has prompted historians to question.

The moment came when the Axios HBO show questioned what the young mayor would do when he's attacked for being "too gay."

"Republicans claimed that John Kerry was a traitor in Vietnam. That Barack Obama was a Muslim. If you were to win the nomination, they'll say you're too young, too liberal, too gay to be commander-in-chief. You are young. You are a liberal. You are gay. How will you respond?" asked Mike Allen.

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New biographer claims she knows how Kim Jong Un will die

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A new biography about Kim Jong Un by Anna Fifield is uncovering many of the unique moments in the childhood of the North Korean dictator. But one piece that isn't included in the book is her prediction for how the leader will die.

In a CNN interview with Brian Todd, Fifield explained that Kim's chain-smoking, drinking and consumption of rich and fatty foods would likely be his undoing. She doesn't anticipate he'll ever have a coup d'etat, but he could probably have a heart attack.

Other shocking observations she made include that Kim's parents had to bring in children so that he would have someone to play with him, effectively meaning his "friends" were paid for.

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