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Barack Obama urges Congress to vote on healthcare

Mr Obama said he looked forward to signing health reform into law

US President Barack Obama has urged Congress to vote by simple majority on healthcare reform, as he makes a final push to have his proposals adopted.

He said Congress should "finish its work" and vote on the legislation in the next few weeks.

Healthcare has been a priority for Mr Obama but the legislation has been blocked by the Republican minority.

Last week, a televised summit hosted by Mr Obama in Washington failed to break the deadlock between parties.

'Implacably opposed'

The president wants Congress to back the latest version of his $950bn (£621bn) plan to cover uninsured Americans and lower premiums.

MARDELL'S AMERICA
Mark Mardell
Republicans will reject this almost instantly. One conservative website has already put together a montage of clips showing Obama saying he wouldn't govern like this

"I believe the United States Congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare reform," Mr Obama said in a speech at the White House.

He said the proposed reforms had incorporated the best ideas from the Democrats and the Republicans.

"I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law," Mr Obama said.

"At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem," he added.

OBAMA'S COMPROMISES
Tax revenues: Medicare tax on high earners rises to 2.9% from 2.35%
Affordability: Adoption of provisions from both House and Senate bills to help low- and moderate-income families
Pre-existing conditions: Insurers would be barred from excluding such people from 2014
Regulation: Young adults up to age of 26 can stay on parent's plan
Medical malpractice: Republican proposal to give grants to states to resolve disputes and reduce lawsuits

Mr Obama said he opposed Republican calls to reject comprehensive bills passed by the House of Representatives and Senate last year and begin again with a more step-by-step approach.

"For us to start over now could simply lead to delay that could last for another decade or even more," he said.

Health care legislation is currently stalled in Congress as the Senate Democrats no longer have the 60-seat majority required to defeat blocking tactics by Republicans.

Both chambers need to pass a unified version of the legislation for the president to sign it into law.

'Government expansion'

The Democrats can make use of a legislative technique called "reconciliation" to force the bill through Congress, though Mr Obama avoided using the term.

The healthcare bill "deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Cobra health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts", Mr Obama said, referring to other measures passed using reconciliation.

But the BBC's Paul Adams, in Washington, says the fact remains that the Republicans are implacably opposed to the sort of overhaul the president wants.

If the Democrats decide to force the issue to a vote on a simple majority, they are still going to have to fight every step of the way, our correspondent adds.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell reaffirmed his opposition to the president's plan.

"Americans don't want us to tack a few good ideas onto a bill that reshapes one-sixth of the economy, vastly expands the role of government and which raises taxes and cuts Medicare to pay for it all."



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