Last year I experimented with the idea of taking a news headline (the title of a newspaper story) and explaining both the words of the headline and the background of the story. Today I’ll give it another try, this time for a story that appears on today’s New York Times website.
“Obama Calls for ‘Up or Down Vote’ on Health Care Bill”
President Obama announced yesterday that he wants the U.S. Congress (our national legislature, consisting of Senators and Representatives) to have an “up or down vote” on health care. To vote means to say yes or no about some issue in an election or group decision. A bill is a proposal for a law that needs to be approved by the two houses or parts of Congress, the Senate (100 people) and the House of Representatives (435 people), and then signed by the president to become a law. For most things, a simple majority (50% + 1) is enough to pass or approve a bill. But in the U.S. Senate, there is a way to prevent a vote on any bill by, basically, refusing to stop talking. This procedure, known as a filibuster, can only be stopped by a super-majority (more than 50% + 1) of 60%.
President Obama is asking the Congress (specifically, the Senate) to avoid any filibusters and simply vote on the proposed bill for health care (taking care of people who are sick). This is what he means by an up and down vote – no filibusters, just a simple majority vote of yes (“up”) or no (“down”). While the president’s political party, the Democrats, has a simple majority in both houses of Congress, it does not have a super-majority in the Senate, so it cannot stop the opposing party, the Republicans, from filibustering. Hence (therefore), the president is asking Republicans to stop preventing a vote on the bill. If he can do that, the bill has a much better chance of passing.
Unfortunately for the president, the majority of Americans are not in favor of the current health care bill, and many of the Democrats in his own party are afraid to vote for a bill that has become so unpopular, largely due to (because of) the high cost of it. We’ll have to see if the Senate Republicans take the president’s suggestion to, well, shut up and let the vote proceed (take place, happen). Even if they do, it is still possible that the bill will fail to pass with a simple majority.
P.S. Feel free to comment on whether you think this sort of blog post – about headlines – is useful.