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Issues to watch

"Issues to watch" Continued...

Issue: "2010 The Year Ahead," Jan. 16, 2010

Cap-and-trade

A global warming bill is coming in 2010, Democrats have vowed. Despite efforts to get the bill to President Obama's desk before the December summit on climate change in Copenhagen, the bill was unable to collect bipartisan support and pass the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is now allotting time for a debate next spring. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., are working on a new version of the bill that includes offshore drilling, protections for refiners, and a proposal to cut U.S. emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. Sponsors hope these concessions will gather the 60 votes they will need to cut off debate on the bill, but this still leaves the question of the cost-estimated by the Treasury Department to be $100 billion to $200 billion per year-and its effect on economic growth.

Healthcare

The last thing congressional supporters of a $1 trillion healthcare overhaul wanted was for the debate to spill over into the 2010 election year. But healthcare will grab headlines in 2010. Significant differences remain between the Senate and House overhaul bills. Ironing out these variances into one bill for President Obama to sign could take Svengali-like political prowess by Senate and House leaders.

The House has a bipartisan agreement to exclude the federal funding of abortion through the new healthcare plans. The Senate doesn't. The House version creates a government-run insurance option. The Senate version doesn't. Appeasing pro-life lawmakers by including the abortion-funding restrictions could lead to opposition from pro-abortion politicians. Including the government-run insurance plan favored by liberal Democrats could force a sizable voting bloc of moderate Democrats to balk. Likewise, jettisoning any government insurance plan, long the Holy Grail of many Democrats, could lead to a rebellion by frustrated liberals.

Making sure a final compromise garners enough votes in both the House and Senate could occupy the start of 2010, but the real impact of healthcare reform may come in November. That will be the first time voters from across the country will be able to cast their own ballots on the overhaul-by either supporting or opposing lawmakers who have voted for it. With polls showing that more than half of Americans oppose the healthcare plan, expect Republicans to use healthcare as a campaign rallying cry.

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