HERE IT COMES!!! bend over and have your vasalene at the ready folks
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has thrown down the gauntlet to Republicans, revamping his proposed healthcare reform and jettisoning a public option among measures that would likely expand insurance coverage to an extra 30 million Americans.
He also left the door open to the possibility of forcing the reforms through Congress by drawing on a little-used legislative process called reconciliation.
The $US950 billion ($1.05 trillion) blueprint signals a last-ditch push by Mr Obama to win approval for his signature reform in a narrowed legislative agenda.
The blueprint revises subsidies and taxes that were included in separate bills passed late last year by the House of Representatives and the Senate
White House officials described the draft as a ''starting point'' for discussions at Thursday's televised healthcare summit between Democrats and key Republicans. It was called by Mr Obama to end a deadlock over reform that has triggered widespread debate in America about the inefficiencies of the political system.
Both major parties have accused each other of inflexibility, with both calling for bipartisanship on key issues such as health reform and the revival of America's sluggish economy. But with opinion polls pointing to a slump in the popularity of Mr Obama - and Democrats generally - there appears little incentive for Republicans to deliver the President a policy triumph in the lead-up to November's mid-term congressional elections.
The exception to the rule was the progress made on Monday on job creation, with several Republicans voting in favour of a Senate bill that will provide an extra $US15 billion for small business tax relief and other measures. Among those adding their support was the new senator, Scott Brown, whose recent shock victory in the Massachusetts seat held for almost five decades by the late Ted Kennedy had emboldened Republicans in their fight against Mr Obama's healthcare plans.
The President's new proposals, which are most closely aligned to the original Senate bill, softens the effects of the reforms on families and the middle class, as well as senior citizens reliant on subsidies for prescriptions.
But a government-run health plan to provide an alternative to Americans without employment-based coverage (contained in the House bill but not the Senate legislation), was dropped from the compromise.
Even so, as a bridging gesture to Republicans who have criticised the reforms as unaffordable and the public option as ''socialist'' in nature, the new blueprint failed miserably.
''The President has crippled the credibility of this week's summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of healthcare based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected,'' railed the Republican leader in the House, John Boehner.
Any changes to the original bill would require a fresh vote by both chambers. The Democrats' big majority in the House would almost certainly guarantee clear passage despite leftist Democrats protesting the lack of a public insurance option.
In the Senate, the Democrats could draw on a process called reconciliation which would let them pass the legislation with a simple 51-vote majority instead of the ''super majority'' of 60 votes that would normally be required. The manoeuvre is contentious, but not without precedent.