Tag Archives: Federal Aviation Administration

10 things you need to know today: December 2, 2013

How to tip a delivery drone? 

How to tip a delivery drone? (YouTube)

The Week

The NTSB investigates New York’s deadly train wreck, Amazon plans to use drones for deliveries, and more

1. Investigators search for clues in deadly train derailment
Commuters from New York City’s northern suburbs face delays on Monday as the National Transportation Safety Board begins an exhaustive investigation into Sunday’s train derailment that killed four people and injured 63 others. The train will be flipped upright to search for more victims. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the track appeared sound, leaving speed a suspected cause. The train’s operator reportedly said the brakes failed. [Fox NewsNew York Times]
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2. Amazon plans to use drones for 30-minute deliveries
Amazon.com is testing delivery drones to bring light packages to customers inside a 10-mile radius of the online retail giant’s hubs, CEO Jeff Bezos said on CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday night. Bezos said the company is waiting for Federal Aviation Administration approval for its octocopter delivery machines. “It will work, and it will happen,” Bezos said, “and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.” [Bloomberg]
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3. Critics say HealthCare.gov fixes are not complete
Skeptics from both parties say the Obama administration has more work ahead to fix HealthCare.gov, despite a White House report saying that the ObamaCare website is working 90 percent of the time thanks to upgrades implemented ahead of a December 1 deadline. Insurers warn that glitches in the back-end systems that deliver customer information to insurers still haven’t been fixed, so some people will be unable to enroll for coverage. [Washington TimesNew York Times]
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4. Black Friday deals reduce total sales for U.S. retailers
Heavy discounting dented the haul at stores over Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. At $57.4 billion, total sales were down 3 percent from 2012 despite record crowds. The trend should continue through the holiday season, with stores offering profit-busting bargains to attract budget-conscious consumers — beginning with new deals on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day every year since 2010. [ReutersCNN]
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5. China launches its first lunar rover mission
Early Monday, China successfully launched a rocket carrying a robotic rover to explore the surface of the moon. In two weeks, the Chang’e 3 probe will attempt to touch down on the moon’s Bay of Rainbows in what would be the Chinese space program’s first soft-landing anywhere in space, then deploy the six-wheeled, solar-powered “Jade Rabbit” rover. China plans to send another probe in 2020 to prepare for landing its first astronauts on the moon. [USA Today]
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6. Thailand’s prime minister rejects an ultimatum from protesters
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Monday rejected an ultimatum from protesters to resign. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said Sunday that he had met with Shinawatra and told her she had two days to “return power to the people,” although he didn’t say what would happen if Shinawatra didn’t bend. Four people have died in eight days of protests. Police have started using tear gas to contain crowds demanding a “people’s coup.” [Bangkok PostBBC News]
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7. Egyptian committee approves a draft constitution
A 50-member committee in Egypt approved 247 articles in a new constitution — one by one — on Sunday, state-run Nile TV and al-Ahram Online reported. The draft now goes to Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, who is expected to ratify it on Tuesday and set a date for a popular referendum to approve it. The document would ban religious parties and give more power to the military, which ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. [CNN]
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8. Gay marriage ban in Croatia passes easily
Croatians overwhelmingly approved a ban on same-sex marriage in a referendum on Sunday. While Americans are warming to gay marriage, two-thirds of the Croatians who cast ballots backed changing the country’s constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Hundreds of gay rights supporters rallied against the measure on Saturday, but a Catholic group drew up a petition supporting it that more than 700,000 people signed. [BBC News]
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9. Scientists scramble to determine why starfish are wasting away
Sea stars are dying off in unprecedented numbers off America’s East and West coasts. Marine scientists say the creatures, commonly known as starfish, are being turned to goo by an unknown wasting disease. Researchers aren’t sure what’s going on. “These kinds of events are sentinels of change,” says Drew Harvell, a Cornell University expert on marine diseases. “It’s pretty important to figure out what’s going on.” [Washington Post]
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10. Baby panda gets a name
The National Zoo revealed the name of its baby giant panda on Sunday. The cub — the second surviving cub to be born at the Washington, D.C., park — will be called Bao Bao, which means “precious” or “treasure.” The little panda’s name was one of five Mandarin options, and people around the world cast 123,000 votes. The name was announced 100 days after the cub’s birth, in accordance with Chinese custom. [New York Times]

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12 Programs Congress Refuses To Save From Automatic Spending Cuts

This list puts Congress’ apathy toward the American people into perspective…

Think Progress

After thousands of flight delays across the country this week, the United States Senate voted Thursday night to give the Federal Aviation Administration the flexibility to keep the nation’s airports running smoothly. The delays were caused by the furlough of air traffic controllers, who were rotating off the job because of sequestration’s automatic budget cuts that began taking effect on March 1. The Senate legislation, which passed the House today and will be signed by President Obama, will allow the FAA to shift the burden of its cuts around, removing the need for controller furloughs and the delays that come with them.

That means lawmakers will be able to fly home for recess this weekend without any delays — and tourists and people who travel for business won’t have to experience the delays either. Unfortunately, though, Congress has shown no willingness to provide similar relief for the families that are being hammered by sequestration in other ways. Here are 12 programs that have experienced devastating cuts because Congress insists on cutting spending when it doesn’t need to — and that have been ignored by the same lawmakers who leaped to action as soon as their trips home were going to take a little longer:

1. Long-term unemployment: There are 4.7 million Americans who have been unemployed for longer than six months, but sequestration cut federal long-term unemployment insurance checks by up to 10.7 percent, costing recipients as much as $450 over the rest of the year. Those cuts compound the cuts eightstates have made to their unemployment programs, and 11 states are considering dropping the federal program altogether because of sequestration — even though the long-term unemployed are finding it nearly impossible to return to work.

2. Head Start: Low-income children across the country have been kicked out of Head Start education programs because of the 5-percent cuts mandated by sequestration, as states have cut bus transportation services and started conducting lotteries to determine which kids would no longer have access to the program, even though the preschool program has been proven to havesubstantial benefits for low-income children. In all, about 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

3. Cancer treatment: Budget cuts have forced doctors and cancer clinics to deny chemotherapy treatments to thousands of cancer patients thanks to a 2 percent cut to Medicare. One clinic in New York has refused to see more than 5,000 of its Medicare patients, and many cancer patients have had to travel to other states to receive their treatments, an option that obviously isn’t available to lower-income people. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) proposed restoring the funding, but the legislation so far hasn’t moved in Congress.

4. Health research: The National Institutes of Health lost $1.6 billion thanks to sequestration, jeopardizing important health research into AIDS, cancer, and other diseases. That won’t just impact research and the people who do it, though. It will also hurt the economy, costing the U.S. $860 billion in lost economic growth and at least 500,000 jobs. Budget cuts will also hamper research at colleges and universities.

5. Low-income housing: 140,000 low-income families — primarily seniors with disabilities and families with children — will lose rental assistance thanks to sequestration’s budget cuts. Even worse, the cuts could likely make rent and housing more expensive for those families, as agencies raise costs to offset the pain of budget cuts, and sequestration will also cut from programs that aid the homeless and fund the construction of low-income housing.

6. Student aid: Sequestration is already raising fees on Direct student loans, increasing costs for students who are already buried in debt. The budget cuts reduce funding for federal work study grants by $49 million and for educational opportunity grants by $37 million, and the total cuts will cost 70,000 college students access to grants they depend on.

7. Meals On Wheels: Local Meals on Wheels programs, which help low-income and disabled seniors access food, have faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in cuts, costing tens of thousands of seniors access to the program. Many of those seniors have little access to food without the program, but Congress has made no effort to replace the funding.

8. Women, Infant, and Children programs: WIC helps 9 million low-income women and children with nutrition and health care referrals. Among these women, the program has led to healthier births, a higher intake of important nutrients, and a strong connection to preventative services. Sequestration means that the program would have to cut off about 600,000 participants.

9. Heating assistance: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps nearly 9 million households afford their heating and cooling bills. Sequestration will cut the program by an estimated $180 million, meaning about 400,000 households will no longer receive aid. These cuts come on top of$1.6 billion in reductions since 2010.

10. Workplace safety: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long suffered from a lack of funds, which means its staff is so stretched that many workplaces go without an inspection for 99 years. The fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas, for example, hadn’t had a visit from OSHA since 1985. That will get worse, as sequestration will cut the agency’s budget by $564.8 million, likely leading to 1,200 fewer workplace inspections.

11. Obamacare: Sequestration cuts a number of important programs in the Affordable Care Act: $13 million from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program, or CO-OPs; $57 million from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control program; $51 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund; $27 million from the State Grants and Demonstrations program; and $44 million from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program, or the insurance exchanges.

12. Child care: Child care costs can exceed rent payments or college tuition and waiting lists for getting assistance are already long. Yet sequestration will reduce funds even further, meaning that 30,000 children will lose subsidies for care. For example, Arizona will experience a $3 million cut to funding that will force 1,000 out of care.

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SENATE: SORRY, POOR PEOPLE!

Senate fixes the (part of the) sequestration (that affects rich people)!

Washington is not just broken, it needs an exorcist!

Salon

Just in time for members to fly home, Congress averts the one cut it cares about. Hint: Not Head Start!

After a month or so of the sequestration budget cuts only affecting people Congress doesn’t really care about, the cuts hit home this week when mandatory FAA furloughs caused lengthy flight delays cross the country. Suddenly, sequestration was hurting regular Americans, instead of irregular (poor) ones! Some naive observers thought this would force Congress to finally roll back the purposefully damaging cuts that were by design never intended to actually go into effect. Those observers were.. sort of right! The U.S. Senate jumped into action last night and voted to… let the FAA transfer some money from the Transportation Department to pay air traffic controllers so that the sequestration can continue without inconveniencing members of Congress, most of whom will be flying home to their districts today. The system works! (For rich people, like I’ve been saying.)

The Washington Post says, “The Senate took the first step toward circumventing sequestration Thursday night” though in fact what they did was work to ensure that the sequester continues not affecting elites, who fly regularly. I am embarrassed that I did not predict this exact outcome in my column Tuesday morning. The Senate, which can’t confirm a judge without months of delay and a constitutional crisis, passed this particular bill in about two minutes, with unanimous consent. The hope is that the House can get it taken care of today, I guess in time for everyone to fly to Aspen or wherever people whom Congress listens to fly to on Fridays.

After that Congress will be done fixing all the various problems with the design and implementation of the sequestration:

But House action on a broader deal to undo the across-the-board cuts appears remote. House conservatives say much of the impact has been exaggerated by the White House, and they have relished the success of forcing visible spending cuts on a Democratic administration.

“I think it’s the first time we’ve saved money in Washington, D.C.,” said Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “I think we need to move on from the subject.”

Move on, people who may become homeless! We fixed the airports, what more do you want?

There was a big to-do yesterday about a Politico story insisting — explosively! morning-winningly! — that Congress was trying to exempt itself from Obamacare. Because this is Politico, the story was based on equal parts misunderstanding of policy and desire to create a fuss. The actual story is that Republicans proposed forcing members of Congress and their staffs to only use healthcare plans created by Obamacare or available in the exchanges. Democrats passed the amendment, as a sort of fuck you. But the exchanges are designed for people who don’t have employers who pay for healthcare. Congressional staffers get employer-sponsored health benefits. The exchanges are explicitly not designed for employees of large employers who pay for healthcare, so some people are right now trying to figure out how to make sure staffers continue to get healthcare. It may end up not being a big deal, or it may require a tweak to the law. But it’s not a scandal. (Honestly it’s all a pretty good argument for ditching employer-based healthcare in favor of universal single-payer but then again everything is.)

But the fuss was already created. The story will live forever, and no amount of debunking in the world will kill the popular myth that Congress attempted to secretly “exempt” itself from Obamacare. So self-serving!

Their staffers are generally the poorest people members of Congress know, and trying to make sure their healthcare is paid for is seriously the closest our legislature gets to altruism. But while the story of Congress working to make sure its staffers don’t have to shoulder the entirety of their premium costs because of Republican political stuntmanship was treated as a scandal and an example of everything rotten about Congress, the story of Congress hurriedly making sure the well-off minority of Americans who fly regularly don’t get briefly inconvenienced — while ignoring the costs of brutal cuts on programs for low-income Americans facing housing or hunger crises — is treated as a wonderful and encouraging display of bipartisanship.

Have a great flight home, senators!

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Boy, 8, Among the Dead in Boston Marathon Explosions

 

ABC News

An 8-year-old boy was one of two casualties when bombs tore into the Boston Marathon today, a law enforcement source told ABC News.

At least 115 people were injured, including several children with severe trauma, when bombs exploded almost simultaneously at the crowded Boston Marathon on a day that was supposed to be one of celebration.

Within hours of the explosions, law enforcement officials, including those with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, were questioning a potential person of interest at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where many of the injured were taken, sources told ABC News. Officials cautioned that it was too soon to say whether the person was an important witness or a person of interest.

The two bombs exploded near the race finish line on Boylston Street before 3 p.m. The area was crowded with runners and spectators, and thousands of runners were still completing the race at the time of the first explosion.

Police said that two people were killed. At least 99 were taken to hospitals with injuries, including some which have been described as amputations and severe burns.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis declined to say whether he thought the devices were acts of terrorism, but said, “You can reach your own conclusion based on what happened.”

According to law enforcement sources, the first bomb exploded at the Marathon Sports running store, and blew out windows in four nearby buildings, injuring 15 to 20 individuals. The second blast occurred about 50 to 100 yards away, severely injuring more bystanders, Davis said.

PHOTO: The scene near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, April 15, 2013.
John Tlumacki/Boston Globe/Getty Images
The scene near the finish line of the 117th… View Full Size
Boston Marathon Explosions: Moment of Impact Watch Video
Marathon Witness: Explosions ‘Like a War Zone’ Watch Video
Boston Marathon Explosion Caught on Tape Watch Video

Authorities believe they were caused by small portable devices, sources told ABC News. More than 400 National Guardsmen in attendance at the marathon helped secure a perimeter around the scene.

One witness described the scene as being like a “warzone,” while a doctor who was standing nearby said he immediately started treating people with severe leg injuries.

“Six or so people went down right away on my left, mostly with leg injuries. One gentleman had both legs below the knee blown off,” Dr. Allan Panter, a physician who witnessed the event, told ABC News. “One girl I treated, I could not find any obvious injury to her torso, but she arrested. She was between 24 and 30.”

“The people had singed facial hair and stuff, most of the injuries were on their legs,” Panter said. “I was 20 feet away, one storefront down, my ears were ringing. Everything blew out from the storefront.”

Police initially said a third explosion occurred later at John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, but later said it was related to a fire. No one was injured at the library, police said.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction over the area of the explosion.

Police are asking for all video footage of the finish line at the time of the explosion.

Continue here…

 

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Space Tourism Expected To Be $1 Billion Industry Over Next 10 Years, Says FAA

This is exciting news.

I’ll admit I’m a NASA fan.  I love to view all their Hubble Telescope pictures.  I am also a fan of  The History Channel’s The Universe.  I try to catch every new episode on my DVR.

I don’t expect to be among the very lucky (and rich) passengers on the maiden flight or subsequent flights.  I’d prefer to have my feet firmly planted to the ground and enjoy outer space from the comfort of my own backyard and television set…

The Huffington Post

Buckle up.

Within a decade, the FAA is predicting that space tourism will become a billion-dollar industry, according to a Reuters report.

“Based on market studies, we expect to see this type of activity result in a billion-dollar industry within the next 10 years,” George Nield, associate administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), said in a statement before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics hearing Tuesday.

There is a handful of companies planning to offer sub-orbital private space flights, most notably Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Branson announced earlier this week that “Two and a Half Men” television star Ashton Kutcher was the 500th person to sign up for a $200,000 ride aboard Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two. According to Discovery News, Virgin Galactic expects to begin flights in 2013.

XCOR Aerospace, a small company based in California’s Mojave Desert, also is already selling seats aboard its winged Lynx suborbital space vehicle. Mike Massee, a spokesperson for XCOR, told The Huffington Post that the company expects to begin testing late this year or in early 2013, and that commercial flights should begin by 2014. Tickets cost $95,000 per flight.

Continue reading here…

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Murdoch Using Drone Aircraft to Spy on U.S. SERIOUSLY Updated x3 (Daily Kos)

The audacity of this  person!  How many laws does Rupert Murdoch have to break before he is thrown in jail?

Daily Kos

Breaking from Keith Olbermann‘s Countdown on CurrentTV:
(UPDATE 1: video of segment now viewable at bottom of diary)

The FAA is investigating Murdoch for flying a drone with a camera on it..

Forbes magazine reporting it. Using it to look at natural disasters among other things. They fly too low and are illegal.

Forbes also reporting that an ex-airforce official worked with Murdoch to make a drone that could capture cell phone signals, unlocked wi-fi signals, etc. Holy effing crap – Rupert thinks he’s his own airforce! Smug bastard – kind makes me think of Borat going, “King of the castle! King of the castle!”

Bastard.

I will post the Forbes link the moment I find it

Here’s the link to the Forbes article:

http://blogs.forbes.com/…

a small excerpt:

The News Corp’s The Daily has a drone that it’s sent out a few times, as noted by The Observer.  After The Daily broadcast some incredible footage of Alabama after it was devastated by storms, UAS Vision reported that The Daily owns a MicroDrone MD4-1000. The Daily sent it out again in June to bring back video from Minot, North Dakota after intense flooding there. (Total non-sequitur: Drones can hack cell phones now, you know.)Taking footage for news-gathering purposes seemed like a commercial use of a drone, which is a no-no, as I understand it. I followed up with the FAA asking if News Corp was one of the companies with an experimental certificate. The inquiry got lobbed to the FAA’s legal department…

“We are examining The Daily’s use of a small unmanned aircraft to see if it was in accordance with FAA policies,” said Les Dorr in an email today. A Daily spokesperson has not yet responded to an inquiry about ownership and licensing of the company’s drone.

UPDATE 1:

Many thanks to Diogenes2008 for the Countdown clip:

UPDATE 2:

A bit more on the law regarding private drones from G2geek in the comments:

Private drones are ILLEGAL in the US. This I know from reading articles about entrepreneurs and hobbyists who want to experiment with drones and remotely-piloted aircraft:There is a very narrow category open for experimentation, but it’s not even wide enough to allow the hobbyists and entrepreneurs to get into the game.  Basically all it allows are the kinds of model airplanes you can operate from the ground while being able to see them at all times.   Nothing more.

If Murdoch and his minions are doing anything more than what hobbyists are already doing with RC model aircraft, he’s in deep doodoo up to his evil eyeballs.  

UPDATE 2.5

A HUGE thanks to Keith Olbermann and Forbes Magazine for breaking this story.

UPDATE 3:
Photo of German-made drone Forbes says Murdoch deployed in the US:
microdrone
(h/t Flint for finding the company’s website)

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HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM – LAWMAKERS SKIP TOWN…FAA STILL SHUT DOWN

I believe history will show that not only is the 112th Congress the “do nothing” congress, it’s also the most selfish, dumbest, most uneducated in civics, science and policy, congress as well!

Huffington Post

The failure of Congress to authorize a budget for the Federal Aviation Administration has put some 4,000 agency employees and tens of thousands of contractorstemporarily out of work. But even some FAA workers who haven’t been furloughed find themselves in a peculiar financial jam.

Roughly 40 FAA inspectors have been asked to continue working despite the stoppage because their jobs are important for air safety. Yet since Congress hasn’t allocated money to the agency, these employees have to cover their own travel expenses until the shutdown is resolved. Although their wages and expenses will eventually be recouped, these workers will end up covering work-related credit charges — and possibly interest — until funding is freed up.

The inspectors are among the thousands who will suffer the real consequences of congressional deadlock.

“It’s incredibly unfair,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “We can neither pay them nor compensate them” for their expenses until the shutdown ends.

Continue reading here… 

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Cracks found in 3 more Southwest jets

The Seattle Sun Times

Three more Southwest Airlines planes have been found with small, subsurface cracks similar to the ones that caused a jetliner to lose pressure and make a harrowing emergency landing in Arizona.

Three more Southwest Airlines planes have been found with small, subsurface cracks similar to the ones that caused a jetliner to lose pressure and make a harrowing emergency landing in Arizona.

Southwest said in a statement Sunday that it had found cracks in two Boeing 737-300s. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member later said a third plane was discovered to have the cracks as well.

NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said Boeing is developing a “service bulletin” strongly suggesting immediate checks on all similar models with comparable flight time and age.

A Boeing 737-300 carrying 118 people to Sacramento, Calif., on Friday rapidly lost cabin pressure after the plane’s fuselage ruptured — causing a 5-foot-long tear — just after takeoff from Phoenix. Pilots made a controlled descent into a military base near Yuma, 150 miles southwest of Phoenix.

The tear, along a riveted “lap joint,” shows evidence of extensive cracking that hadn’t been discovered during routine maintenance before Friday’s flight — and probably wouldn’t have been unless mechanics specifically had looked for it, officials said.

NTSB investigators were in Yuma on Sunday to oversee removal of the top section of the jetliner’s roof around the tear. The structure will be sent to Washington, D.C., for analysis.

Southwest spokeswoman Beth Harbin said the airline would not comment on the board’s findings.

“We won’t be able to add anything,” she said in an email. “We’re participating in the investigation and conducting our own inspections on several other aircraft.”

Southwest canceled about 600 flights over the weekend “to accommodate aircraft inspections” of 79 planes, its website said.  

Continue reading…

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Full repeal of health care law fails in the Senate

Can I laugh now or later?

Politico

Republican efforts to repeal the health care reform law died a quick death in the Senate Wednesday, with a united Democratic caucus voting down a GOP repeal bill that cleared the House last month.

A procedural vote ended the repeal effort, 47-51, as expected. Democrats framed the Republican amendment as an attempt to take health benefits away from Americans.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed the amendment – the repeal bill the House passed last month – to the Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill. He called the vote an opportunity for health reform supporters to say, “yes, maybe my vote for this bill was a mistake, and that we can do better.”

Just holding the vote is a victory for Republicans: McConnell managed to bring it to the floor of a Democrat-controlled senate. And some moderate Democrats, who voted against the health law last year, are now on the record with a vote in favor of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

The country is relatively split in its support for the law, particularly in states where moderate Democrats have to face reelection in 2012.

Republicans hope that support for the law erodes further, forcing Democrats to reconsider their support for health reform.

Democrats put up a budget point of order, a procedural tool designed to highlight the fact that repeal would add about $230 billion to the deficit, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. Republicans have strongly objected to the figure, arguing that the reform law would add to the deficit.

McConnell has promised that he will force numerous votes against the health care reform law.

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