Headlines: Health Care Bill

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.

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23 Responses to Headlines: Health Care Bill

  1. Kuba says:

    The idea of this type of blog post is great to me. I learn a lot of new phrases from all posts on the blog basically, and I think I got even more stuff in this one. Thx.

    Hello to other ESL podcasts / blog fans btw!

  2. Adrian says:

    Dear Jeff,

    I`ve been reading your post for a wile and I do think that innovation is a great idea. In fact, commenting news you can explore many fields as technology, politics, health, daily events, curiosities and so on. In other words, this new approach put more versatility in this section. I really approve that. Thank you for this post.
    (from Brazil).

  3. Moon says:

    Sometimes I hear CNN student news that are a litter easier to comprehend than normal news casting,
    and heard a news concerning the health care bill, yesterday.
    Now I just understand why U.S. president called for vote.
    Your “Headline” idea will be great help for those like me who are lack of the background knowledge about the U.S.

  4. emiliano says:

    Absolutely I agree with Kuba and Adrian in the way that these kind of posts blog are informative and quite interesting.
    I have not any idea of the terms Up and Down relative to vote, and they seems very explicit.

    Have they anything to do with the Romans and the thumb up or down if the Emperator wanted to save a gladiator or let him be
    killed by the winner?.

    Filibuster, another good word that I know nothing about it´s meaning that way and it is curious the two so different forms of using it.

    Thank you Jeff, we hope more posts like this.
    Have I ever said that this is the best site to learn English and have so good information about USA life?.
    I think yes, but I may repeat it again seeing this good work.

  5. Giovanni says:

    Thanks to this blog post I understood the system of two houses and majority in US. It’s very simple, now.

  6. Daniele says:

    To me it is ok, it is useful.

    Just yesterday I was looking at a video on Cnn about Filibusters, but I was not able to understand who they where and what they do.
    Sometimes headlines can be puzzling, so I would love it
    ESL it the first site that I visit when I turn on my Pc. I am already thinking that I will read your explanation followed by the article.
    Thank you Jeff

  7. juan antonio lara says:

    I feel that this blog post is useful to understand the meaning the key words of the news

  8. dongsung says:

    The fact that the ruling party tries to use their position to do something for their political gain looks similar to other countries. I, unconcerned with political issue, have no argument on this. I am ashamed. Sorry.

  9. francesco says:

    Hi Jeff, I like this blog post, very useful. I think all ESL adepts, like me, like it! The health care is a huge issue for U.S. wholly. The upside is giving people with less money than others the chance to cure themselves without having to spend a fortune; the downside is basically that , for sure, Americans must face an increase in the tax level. You cannot cure anyone and, in the same time, not rising the taxes. We know it very well here in Italy. Hence, it’s the same question everywhere: will the public health care system be able to cure everyone like is said theoretically by the president Obama?!? at the future people the hard judge!

  10. bartleby says:

    I think it’s necessary any feedback from ESL in the comments area.

  11. ivan says:

    great Jeff,
    I already tried to read a newspeaper like NY times, but lot of concept escape by my comprension. I think this is one of your best ideas.
    Thanks, thanks a lot.
    Ivan, Italy

  12. Michel says:

    Dear Jeff,

    A verry good idea this blog. we can try to write about different actuel subjects.
    I think “healt care bill’ would be a real progress in america. Health for every body like in France.
    All the people must be in good health even they are poor. Obama is a president for all not only for the easyer people. I hoppe this bill will be okay.

    Thank’s for this blog and sorry for my very bad english
    Michel, France

  13. Mohammad says:

    Hi Jeff,

    this type of posts are more than helpful, at least for me! It happens a lot that I get confused by sayings and headlines in the news(tv and newspapers) and it’s not easy to look them up in dictionaries.

    Thanks a lot

  14. Oleg says:

    Dear Jeff,

    thank you very much for this interesting article. I like to read your blog, because it helps me to improve my english by reading.
    And its much easier because the topis are interesting.
    Articles about the life and society in America are my favourites.

    Greetz from Germany,

  15. Bakhtyar basher says:

    Hi there it is really nice topic with a good explanation, hence i say thank you guys appreciated

  16. Josiane says:

    Hi there,
    I think its really useful this kind of post, specially because we are being informed of the latest news as the same time we are learning new words and expressions. Many thanks!

  17. Jacky Liu says:

    In my opinion, the blog content like is helpful. In my case, when I am watching CNN news, sometimes I can not understand some terms that are often appearing in the news, because when I am watching the news, it is not easy for me to look up the dictionary immediately.

  18. Tania says:

    Hi ! Thank you for your explanation of the word “bill” . I have found out your explanation in no dictionary . I have just understood the real problem with the American health care bill .
    I prefer this sort of blog post as the headlines synthetize all ideas from a press article . But and a joke is more than wellcome from time to time . This to heat our soul .

    Thank you for your explanation of the words “flagship” and ASAP .

    All the best for you all ,


  19. Tania says:

    Hi ! A companion in a desert isle … Not necessary to be a desert island . Our soul sometimes seems to be a desert .
    I was in hospital many years ago … desperate , with a not very good diagnosis … During the visiting hours my mother came to see me saying : I know you hence I brought you this book “Gran Canaria ” by Cronin .
    It is not a sophisticated novel but it touches the heart … I can’ t forget her gesture maybe as I have sometimes a dream , always the same . It is my secret dream .
    In a desert island I need a survival guidebook and … Rambo must come to save me . No doubt .

    I wish you all a very compatible companion with your mind and soul ,


  20. Linn says:

    Yes, this sorts of blog posts are very good!

  21. gregorex says:

    This is brilliant idea. If only I had ideas like this, my website would still exists 😉

    P.S. If I were you I would probably add system of comments under each lesson, that can probably make your website even more popular (better indexed by Google).
    But I wouldn’t listen to me if I were you 😉

  22. Canan says:

    Dear Jeff,
    It ‘s a fantastic idea .I often confused and do not understand when I try to read news from internet and when I do not understand the main idea I immidiately get bored and stop reading because it’s hard to find them in dictionaries .By this way I think we can learn more easly the new term and actual subjects.
    Many thanks for this.

  23. Siu Harens says:

    God love Congress. They’re gonna raise taxes and cut our salaries. What do you think companies will do when their expense per employee goes up?

Comments are closed.