Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quiet signing of abortion bill fulfills deal on new healthcare law

In the aftermath of the frantic dealmaking that consumed Washington the past few weeks, U.S. President Barack Obama quietly signed an executive order barring federal funding for elective abortions in a concession to anti-abortion Democrats who voted for the health-care overhaul. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), leader of an anti-abortion bloc in the House of Representatives whose support was crucial for the approval of the sweeping health-care proposal, according to the New York Times. Obama signed the bill into law on Tuesday in an elaborate White House ceremony. In contrast, Wednesday's signing of the executive order was done in the Oval Office with no fanfare in front of a few invited lawmakers, with no media present. Pro-choice lawmakers did not object to the order because it merely complied with existing federal law, the Times said. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats rejected a host of amendments and moved toward passage of a companion health-care reform bill that would raise subsidies for senior and low-income citizens and take the nation's banks out of the student loan business. The bill would turn the federal government into the direct lender for student loans, instead of the guarantor as it is now, and increase the maximum dollar amount students can receive in federal Pell grants. The move is expected to cost the banking industry -- including federal lending giant Sallie Mae -- billions of dollars in revenue. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, banking giants that received billions of dollars in assistance from the government as part of the financial system bailout, have traditionally been the largest beneficiaries of the student loan program, the Times said.

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