Nation & World Briefly 12/18

Dems seek Nelson's vote on health care

WASHINGTON (AP) - A year in the making, sweeping health care legislation backed by President Barack Obama hung in the balance Thursday as conservative Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson withheld his vote in pursuit of stricter abortion limits, even as liberals grew restive on the left.

"Without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient," Nelson declared in a written statement that summarized the results of days of private negotiations. The second-term Nebraskan opposes the procedure and wants tighter restrictions written into the overhaul.

With Nelson's support, the White House and Senate Democrats would command 60 votes for the health care measure, enough to overcome a Republican filibuster and pass the bill within a matter of days.

Without it, the prospects are far more uncertain, given unyielding Republican opposition on the conservative right as well as growing expressions of unhappiness on the left that sent the White House scrambling.

"The absolute refusal of Republicans in the Senate to support health care reform and the hijacking of the bill by defenders of the insurance industry have brought us a Senate bill that is inadequate," Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement.

Suspected U.S. missiles kill 17

MIR ALI, Pakistan (AP) - Two U.S. missile strikes pummeled targets inside the main sanctuary used by al-Qaida and the Taliban along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, killing 17 people Thursday, local intelligence officials said.

The latest drone attacks came amid the prospect of renewed political instability in Pakistan, with President Asif Ali Zardari facing calls for his resignation after the Supreme Court struck down an amnesty that had protected him and thousands of other political officials from corruption charges.

The national anti-graft agency said 247 people who had been covered by the amnesty were banned from leaving the country because investigations of them had been reopened.

The missiles rained down North Waziristan, a haven for many militants including groups determined to push the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan.


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