March 25, 2017
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David Byrd reporting.
A major setback for President Donald Trump and Republicans on health care. Despite lobbying by the president and Vice President Mike Pence, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan was not able to gather enough votes to pass the American health care act.
Speaker Ryan said at a late day news conference Friday, he was disappointed but resolved to come up with a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
"We got to do better and we will. I absolutely believe that. This is a setback, no two ways about it. But it is not the end of the story. Because I know that every man and woman in this conference is now motivated more than ever to step up our game."
At the White House, President Trump said that Ryan had worked hard to get the bill passed, but that he would go on to tax reform as the next item on his legislative agenda.
"But we've had a -- I'm not going to speak badly about anybody within the party. But certainly there's a big history. I think Paul really worked hard. And I would say that we will probably start going very, very strong for the big tax cuts and tax reform. That will be next."
Conservative Republicans had opposed the bill because they said it did not cut Obamacare enough. Moderates opposed it because they fear that too many Americans would lose their health insurance.
Democrats, meanwhile, are hailing the defeat of the health care law as a victory for the poor and the middle class. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the Republican bill would have stripped health care from the most vulnerable Americans and increased insurance premiums for others.
For more on these stories, log on to our website voanews.com. This is VOA news.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes, has cancelled next week's public hearing over Russia's meddling in the 2016 election.
As Jeff Caster reports, Nunes opted instead for a closed session on Tuesday - something which angered the committee's leading Democrat.
Committee Chairman Representative Devin Nunes told reporters Friday at the Capitol the follow-up testimony from FBI director James Comey and NSA chief Michael Rogers will take place Tuesday in a closed session.
Objecting to cancelling the public hearing, the panel's leading Democrat Adam Schiff immediately accused Nunes of trying to "choke off public info" with the move.
Nunes insisted the cancellation of the public hearing was not political. He also said former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort volunteered to appear before the committee to answer any questions regarding his ties to the Russian government.
Jeff Caster, VOA news, Washington.
The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said Friday he does not expect "miracles" from the fifth round of talks in Geneva, but he hopes for incremental constructive steps.
De Mistura kicked off on Friday the formal start of the fifth round of peace talks over 14 months between envoys from President Bashar al-Assad's government and opposition groups.
At a news conference, the U.N. envoy said he is encouraged that everybody showed up.
"The Geneva talks according to each one of the interlocutors was feeling that they needed to be going ahead and actually to build on Geneva 4."
The talks are set to take place over at least several days around issues of governance, elections, a new constitution and the fight against terrorism.
U.S. officials say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with members of the NATO alliance next week following criticism over his initial decision to skip a NATO foreign ministers meeting.
State Department officials say Tillerson will meet NATO members on March 31 in Brussels. Foreign ministers from NATO countries were originally scheduled to gather in the Belgian city on April 5 and 6. It is not clear if the new meeting will replace the April dates.
Earlier this week, Tillerson's office said he would not be able to attend the April meeting of the 28-member alliance, raising fears about the U.S. administration's commitment to NATO.
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has remanded three online bloggers into custody of a federal agency for a week to investigate blasphemy charges against them to determine whether they should be formally tried and punished.
Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency arrested the three men earlier this week as part of an ongoing crackdown on suspects involved in posting blasphemous material on social media.
I'm David Byrd in Washington.
That's the latest world news from VOA.