WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans learned early Thursday that they will be able to kill language in a measure altering President Barack Obama's newly enacted health care overhaul, meaning the bill will have to return to the House for final congressional approval.
It appeared initially that deleting the provisions, dealing with Pell grants for low-income students, should not cause major problems for Democrats hoping to rush the bill to Obama and avoid prolonging what has been a politically painful ordeal for the party. Democrats described the situation as a minor glitch, but did not rule out that Republicans might be able to remove additional sections of the bill.
The president, who signed the landmark legislation into law on Tuesday, was flying to Iowa later in the day for the first of many appearances he will make around the country before the fall congressional elections to sell his health care revamp.
As an exhausted Senate labored past 2 a.m. on a stack of GOP amendments, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told reporters that Republicans consulting with the chamber's parliamentarian had found "two minor provisions" that violate Congress' budget rules.
Republicans have been hunting for such violations in hopes of bringing down the legislation. Democrats had also been consulting with the parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, and hoped they had written a measure that would not be vulnerable to such problems.
The two provisions are expected to be formally removed from the bill on Thursday. Manley said he expected the Senate to approve the measure without them and send it to the House. He said Senate leaders, after conversations with top House Democrats, expect the House to approve the revised measure.