Republicans Lose Major Healthcare Argument; Palestine Back Peddles In The Face Of Revolt.
Congressional budget analysts gave an important political boost Wednesday to a Senate panel's health-care overhaul, projecting that the $829 billion measure would both dramatically shrink the ranks of the ...
Congressional budget analysts gave an important political boost Wednesday to a Senate panel's health-care overhaul, projecting that the $829 billion measure would both dramatically shrink the ranks of the uninsured and keep President Obama's pledge that doing so would not add "one dime" to federal budget deficits.
With the report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the measure crafted by the Senate Finance Committee has emerged as the only one of five bills drafted by various committees that achieves every important goal Obama has set for his top domestic initiative.
White House budget director Peter Orszag applauded the analysis, saying the bill "demonstrates that we can expand coverage and improve quality while being fiscally responsible," and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called the CBO report "another important step down the road toward enacting comprehensive health insurance reform." But senior Republicans seemed only to harden in their opposition to the measure.
The Finance Committee could vote as early as Friday on the bill. Passage by the Democrat-dominated panel is virtually assured, but Democrats are eager to win the vote of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), the only Republican on the committee who has expressed any support for the measure.
Snowe said Wednesday that she was relieved to see that the cost of expanding coverage remained below Obama's limit of $900 billion over the next decade. "But we have a lot to review," she said.
She urged committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to wait until next week for a final vote. "It's a critical vote. . . . I would rather have the comfort level of having had sufficient time to analyze it."
Other Republicans pored over the CBO's 27-page report in a late-afternoon huddle, then emerged with the warning that the Finance measure would impose a stiff price on people who already have health insurance. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said he is worried that insurers and other health-care companies would pass the cost of new fees and taxes on to consumers. And he said the bill's expansion of Medicaid would leave a new set of "unfunded mandates" for states already struggling with record budget deficits.
"There's a lot of things in there to be concerned about," Grassley said.
Reid hopes to combine the committee's bill with a competing measure approved by the Senate health committee and present the result to the full Senate later this month. He will begin next week to convene small meetings in his office with Baucus, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and senior White House officials, including Orszag, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior health adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the legislation is likely to become more problematic as Reid works "in a closed-to-the-public conference room, somewhere in the Capitol," to add provisions aimed at winning the 60 votes needed to avert a GOP filibuster. "The real bill will be another 1,000-page, trillion-dollar experiment," McConnell said in a statement, "that slashes a half-trillion dollars from seniors' Medicare, raises taxes on American families by $400 billion, increases health care premiums, and vastly expands the role of the federal government in the personal health-care decisions of every American."
According to the CBO, Congress's official arbiter of the cost of legislation, the Finance measure would expand coverage to an additional 29 million Americans by 2019 by dramatically expanding Medicaid coverage for the poor and by subsidizing private insurance for low- and middle-income Americans.
The $829 billion price tag would be more than offset by reducing spending on Medicare and other federal health programs by about $400 billion over the next decade, and by imposing a series of fees on insurance companies, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers and other sectors of the health industry that stand to gain millions of new customers under the legislation.
…The Finance Committee bill does not include a new government-run insurance program -- often called the "public option" -- backed by Obama and liberals as a way to inject competition in the insurance market.
It substitutes a nonprofit cooperative as an alternative, but the CBO report was dubious about its merits. The CBO said cooperatives were unlikely to attract much enrollment or spend all the subsidies allocated to it.
"They seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country or to noticeably affect federal subsidy payments," the report said.
All three healthcare bills passed by House of Representatives committees include a public option, as does the Senate health committee plan approved earlier this year.
The CBO said the bill probably would result in continued reductions in federal budget deficits in the years after 2019.
When it was originally unveiled on September 16, the CBO estimated the plan would cost $774 billion, shave $49 billion from the deficit over 10 years and add about 29 million people to the insurance rolls.
Dozens of amendments were added to the measure during seven days of committee debate, but the number of people who would be insured under the bill did not change and the reduction in the budget deficit actually increased. Continued...
Associated Press, 10.07.09, 08:28 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's ambitious plans to overhaul the U.S. health care system received a boost Wednesday with a report by nonpartisan congressional experts that put 10-year costs in line with his estimates.
One line of attack used by Republicans to aggressively deride Obama's health care plans is that the program is too expensive.
The report also said the legislation, drafted by the Senate Finance Committee, would expand coverage to 94 percent of the eligible population, about 10 percentage points nearer to universal coverage than now.
In all, the plan still would leave around 25 million people uninsured, about one-third of them illegal immigrants who are ineligible under for insurance.
Obama has made overhauling the U.S. health care system his most important domestic issue, staking his presidency on pushing the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system in a half-century.
The United States spends more on medical care than any other nation but is the only developed country without universal coverage. The private insurance that most Americans have comes through employers, and the Senate's Republican minority has been adamant in rejecting government controls on any part of the overhauled system. Thus the proposal would not require employers to offer health care plans but would force large companies that do not to offset any government subsidies going to those employees.
Principal findings of the CBO report are the expanded coverage, the estimate that the 10-year cost would be $829 billion rather than more than $1 trillion that some had feared, and a reduction in the federal debt of $81 billion over a decade and probably "continued reductions in federal budget deficits" in the years beyond.
The report clears the way for the Senate Finance Committee to vote as early as Friday on the legislation, which is largely in line with Obama's downsized ideas. The plan still must clear the Senate, which will not be easy. In addition strong Republican opposition, some conservative Democrats are less than enthusiastic about it.
Also, the Senate's arcane rules require a three-fifths vote, or 60 senators, to quash delaying tactics that the Republicans are almost certain to mount. All 57 of Obama's Democrats would have to vote for the proposal, as well as two independents who normally vote with them. That still would total 59, which means one Republican would need to go against the party and vote with the Democrats.
The measure being debated in the finance committee also would reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion in that period, the Congressional Budget Office says.
Reporting from Washington - Senate Democrats pushing healthcare legislation received a boost from the Congressional Budget Office today as the much-watched nonpartisan agency estimated that a bill being debated by the Senate Finance Committee would cost $829 billion over the next decade.
The budget experts also concluded that the bill sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would help reduce the overhaul federal deficit by $81 billion by 2019, as additional spending to expand coverage would be offset by cuts and new revenue.
At the same time, the bill would expand the percentage of Americans with health insurance from 83% to 94% over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The estimate sets the stage for the finance panel to vote on the proposal later this week or next week, a key step in the Democratic campaign to send President Obama a healthcare overhaul bill by the end of the year.
Once the finance committee votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will combine the panel's legislation with a slightly different bill developed by the Senate Health Committee.
Reid, who hopes to bring the combined bill to the Senate floor later this month, is laboring to craft a bill that can win the support of both liberal and conservative Democrats and overcome a planned Republican filibuster.
House Democratic leaders are also working build consensus before bringing their version of a healthcare overhaul to the floor of their chamber.
House Democrats met today behind closed doors to talk about ways to structure a new government insurance program. Thursday, the group is slated to discuss how to pay for the package.
Congressional Democrats are trying to keep the cost of their legislation, as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office, below $900 billion over the next decade, a benchmark set by President Obama in his speech last month to a joint session of Congress.
Though Democratic leaders plan to offset additional federal healthcare spending with other spending cuts as well as new revenues, many conservative Democrats have expressed concern about a bill that would commit more than $1 trillion over the next decade to expand coverage.
If current trends continue, the nation is projected to spend a total of more than $30 trillion healthcare by 2019.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Baucus' original proposal would cost $774 billion over the next decade.
Baucus did that in large part by offering substantially less federal assistance to Americans who would be required to buy insurance than more liberal bills developed by House Democrats and by Baucus' colleagues on the Senate health committee.
But under pressure from liberal Democrats and some Republicans, the committee has moved to expand aid for individuals and for small businesses to help them provide their workers with health benefits.
The committee also has slashed proposed penalties for those who did not comply with a new insurance mandate and limited limit how many people would be subject to a new excise tax on high-end -- or so-called Cadillac -- health plans.
WASHINGTON -- Not every Republican is against the healthcare reform legislation President Obama is pushing -- just the ones who are still in Congress, apparently.
Former GOP Senate leader -- and 1996 GOP presidential nominee -- Bob Dole bashed Republican intransigence on reform in a speech Wednesday in Kansas City, saying the legislation ought to pass and the GOP ought to get on board with it.
"This is one of the most important measures members of Congress will vote on in their lifetimes," Dole said, according to the Kansas City Star. "I want this to pass... I don't agree with everything Obama is presenting, but we've got to do something.
Dole said Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the current Republican leader, has asked him not to speak out in favor of reform legislation because it might help the White House. But he rejected that approach. "I don't want the Republicans putting up a 'no' sign and saying, 'we're not open for business,'" he said.
Another former Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, told Time magazine's Karen Tumulty last week that he'd probably vote for the reform legislation in the end. Tommy Thompson, the Republican former governor of Wisconsin who served as secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration, also endorsed the plan, as did New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (though counting him as a Republican may not quite be fair).
None of that is likely to make any difference in terms of attracting votes from Republicans in Congress now, of course. The current GOP caucus in both the House and Senate has made it clear that's not in the cards. But the more support from prominent Republicans the legislation draws, the likelier it is that independent voters watching from home will feel comfortable with the reform proposals. And the more comfortable voters are with the reform proposals, the more comfortable moderate Democrats will be. So expect to hear quite a bit about all these various endorsements as the legislation moves along.
Congressional budget analysts gave an important political boost Wednesday to a Senate panel's health-care overhaul, projecting that the $829 billion measure would both dramatically shrink the ranks of the ...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A US Senate Finance Committee health plan would cost $829 billion and cut the budget deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, nonpartisan budget analysts said on Wednesday in a report that could ...
(Updates with reaction to CBO estimate from Sen. Lamar Alexander and White House spokesman in paragraphs 17 and 19.) By Martin Vaughan and Patrick Yoest Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A health overhaul proposal from Sen. ...
-"There's a lot of things in there to be concerned about," Grassley said.
CNN - 4 hours ago
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A compromise health care proposal widely seen as having the best chance to win Democratic and Republican support would cost $829 billion over the next 10 years, nonpartisan budget analysts concluded Wednesday. From left: Sens. ...
Los Angeles Times - Noam N. Levey - 3 hours ago
The measure being debated in the finance committee also would reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion in that period, the Congressional Budget Office says. By Noam N. Levey Reporting from Washington - Senate Democrats pushing healthcare legislation ...
Wall Street Journal (blog) - Jacob Goldstein - 3 hours ago
The Congressional Budget Office just released its estimates for the Senate Finance Committee's big health-care bill. ...
Reuters Blogs (blog) - James Pethokoukis - 5 hours ago
Set aside for a moment the ludicrous fantasy that now, after decades of failure to do so, we will suddenly have vigilant oversight of Medicare that will ...
Wall Street Journal (blog) - Jacob Goldstein - 11 hours ago
Like everybody else who's following the health-care overhaul, we're waiting for CBO to score the latest version of the Senate Finance ...
Atlantic Online - Megan McArdle - 4 hours ago
So, the CBO report is out, and my estimate of the contents is totally wrong. WonkRoom has a pretty good summary: I find the new score deeply puzzling. ...
Washington Post - 4 hours ago
Updated 5:06 pm By Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray A health-care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee would expand health coverage to ...
FOXNews - 4 hours ago
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) says that he intends to submit a health care reform bill written by House Democrats to the ...
Washington City, DC
Washington Post - 6 hours ago
If reason and common sense always prevailed in Washington, a pending request from eight lawmakers who want to make the consideration of the Senate's ...
Heritage.org - 3 hours ago
The Congressional Budget Office preliminary estimate of the Senate Finance Committee's work is a devastating revelation. The bill is a platform for an ...
Politics Daily (blog) - 4 hours ago
The Congressional Budget Office has released its much-awaited estimate on the cost of the health care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee. ...
New York Times - Katharine Q. Seelye - 8 hours ago
For a guide to the differences among various health-care bills in the House and Senate, check out this newly updated interactive tool ...
Forbes - Brian Wingfield - Oct 6, 2009
Consumer choice is just one element that's fallen by the wayside as Congress has moved forward. WASHINGTON -- After months of deliberations, ...
National Review Online - 4 hours ago
To translate, the bill imposes a mandate for the purchase of health insurance, and gets people covered by creating subsidies and expanding Medicaid ...
“There Will Be A Public Option In The Bill,” Ms. Pelosi Declared.
Bob Dole, the one-time Republican leader in the Senate, and Tom Daschle, the one-time Democratic leader, issued a joint statement today in which they said they supported the Democrats’ attempt to overhaul the health-care system.
“The American people have waited decades, and if this moment passes us by, it may be decades more before there is another opportunity,” the two former leaders said in a joint statement.
Mr. Dole told reporters earlier in the day in Kansas that the current Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, had asked him not to lend his support to the Democratic effort.
According to an account in The Kansas City Star, Mr. Dole said that he had been approached by the Mr. McConnell and asked not to issue a statement calling for passage of a health-care reform bill.
“We’re already hearing from some high-ranking Republicans that we shouldn’t do that — that’s helping the president,” Mr. Dole said. He added that these included one “very prominent Republican, who happens to be the Republican leader of the Senate.”
A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said that Mr. McConnell had not spoken recently with Mr. Dole, so the timing of any request was not clear.
The statement from Mr. Dole and Mr. Daschle came as Democrats have been touting support from other prominent Republicans who are not in Congress, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. The Democratic hope is that outside support will give political cover to wavering Democrats in Republican-leaning states and districts and help them support the effort — and perhaps persuade some Republican members themselves to get on board.
Mr. Dole and Mr. Daschle, founding members of a group called the Bipartisan Policy Coalition, had issued their own bipartisan template for a health care overhaul in June. It contained some of the basic elements of the plan now before the Senate Finance Committee; like that plan, it recommended that all Americans have insurance but contained no public option.
The statement today did not specify any particular bill before Congress, but said it “is now our hope that a consensus be reached which supports sweeping changes in health care.”
“The current approaches suggested by the Congress are far from perfect, but they do provide some basis on which Congress can move forward, and we urge the joint leadership to get together for America’s sake,” their statement said. “We have no vote or power, but we have experience and our only objective is to be helpful.”
The Kansas City Star said that Mr. Dole repeatedly blamed “partisanship” for the failure so far to produce a bill.
“Sometimes people fight you just to fight you,” he said. “They don’t want Reagan to get it, they don’t want Obama to get it, so we’ve got to kill it.”
He said he did not agree with everything that President Obama is trying to do, but said it was important to do something. “I don’t want the Republicans putting up a ‘no’ sign and saying, ‘We’re not open for business,’” he said, reiterating comments he made last month to The New York Times.
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Published: October 7, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Senate Finance Committee legislation to revamp the health care system would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans, but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care, the nonpartisanCongressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
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The much-anticipated cost analysis showed the bill as meeting President Obama’s main requirements, including his demand that health legislation not add “one dime to the deficit.”
The analysis, which says the legislation would cut future deficits by $81 billion over 10 years, clears the way for the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, to push for a panel vote within the next few days. It also sets the stage for Democrats to take legislation to the floor for debate by the full Senate this month.
Despite the expansion of coverage at a cost of $829 billion over 10 years, the budget office said that 25 million people — about one-third of them illegal immigrants — would still be uninsured in 2019. In all, the proportion of nonelderly Americans with insurance would rise over the 10 years to 94 percent from 83 percent today.
Republicans, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the legislation, minimized the significance of the cost analysis. They suggested that the “real” bill would be written secretly by Democratic leaders as they combined the Finance Committee measure with a version approved by the Senate health committee in July.
But Democratic leaders rejoiced. Several wavering Democrats and one Republican, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, had said they would be influenced by the budget office report.
Within minutes of receiving the report, Mr. Baucus, the chief author of the bill, was on the Senate floor, boasting that it would cover millions, reduce the deficit and revamp the health care system for the 21st century. “The report is good news,” he said. “Our balanced approach in the Finance Committee to health reform, I think, has paid off.”
The cost analysis by the Congressional Budget Office was a crucial test. If the numbers had come in much higher — if, for example, the price tag had exceeded $900 billion — they could have delayed or derailed Democrats’ effort to pass a bill this year.
The budget office said Medicare savings and revenues from new taxes would grow at a brisk pace beyond 2019, so the bill would probably “reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade, relative to those projected under current law.”
Democrats had worried that changes made by the committee, in seven days of deliberations, would add to the cost or reduce the number of people covered. The projected 10-year cost of the bill did increase, from $774 billion in Mr. Baucus’s original proposal. But the new costs were more than offset, and the budget office found that the latest version would reduce deficits by $32 billion more than the original plan.
The bill would require people to have insurance, but the committee reduced the penalties for those who violate the requirement. Senators had expected this change to reduce the number of people gaining insurance under the bill. But the budget office did not alter its estimate.
In a sign of the furious debate that lies ahead, hospital lobbyists said Wednesday that the coverage was not good enough to meet the terms of an agreement they had reached with Mr. Baucus and the White House. The industry said it had agreed to accept $155 billion in reduced Medicare payments over 10 years, provided that 97 percent of all legal residents were insured.
“They have not yet met the standard of our deal,” said Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade group.
Republicans were not impressed by the new numbers. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said: “The bill spends nearly $1 trillion and still leaves 25 million people without health insurance. That’s not much bang for the buck.”
Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, said the bill would “create a massive new entitlement” to government-subsidized insurance.
Other Republicans noted that in a separate report the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that the deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion in the 2009 fiscal year, which ended last week.
A companion health care bill moving through the House would cost more, but would also do more to expand coverage, leaving 17 million people uninsured in 2019, the budget office said.
The House Democratic Caucus held meetings throughout the day to seek a consensus on its version of the legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the discussions focused on the size and shape of a proposed government-run health insurance plan, which, under the House bill, would compete with private insurers.
“There will be a public option in the bill,” Ms. Pelosi declared.
In its analysis of the Senate Finance Committee bill, the budget office said a proposed expansion of Medicaid would add $345 billion to federal spending over the next 10 years. State Medicaid spending would increase by $33 billion, as 14 million people would be added to the Medicaid rolls.
The other big federal cost would be subsidies totaling $461 billion over 10 years, to help low- and middle-income people buy insurance.
The budget office said that a proposed tax on high-cost insurance policies would raise $201 billion over 10 years. Penalties paid by people who go without insurance would total $4 billion over 10 years, far less than the $20 billion expected under Mr. Baucus’s original proposal. Employers who did not provide health benefits would pay $23 billion in penalties, down from the $27 billion previously estimated.
Mr. Baucus’s bill would create a Medicare commission, with power to make cutbacks in the program, unless blocked by subsequent legislative action. The budget office said the commission would save $22 billion from 2015 to 2019.
The bill would set up insurance cooperatives, to compete with private insurers. But the budget office said the co-ops would not establish “a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”
The budget office found that the Finance Committee would reduce payments to private Medicare Advantage plans by $117 billion over 10 years while cutting the growth of Medicare payments to other health providers by $162 billion. Republicans contend, and Democrats deny, that beneficiaries would suffer as a result.
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, moved Wednesday to address criticism of the penalties that would be imposed on people without insurance. The penalty would be phased in from 2013 to 2017, when an adult without insurance would generally have to pay an excise tax of $750 a year.
Under Mr. Schumer’s proposal, those payments would be deposited in a new federal trust fund and could be used in the future to buy insurance for the person who had paid the taxes.
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By ISABEL KERSHNER and NEIL MacFARQUHAR
Published: October 7, 2009
JERUSALEM — Faced with a torrent of criticism at home and abroad, the Palestinian leadership abruptly reversed course on Wednesday by endorsing a Security Council debate on a United Nations report accusing Israel of possible war crimes in Gaza.
The report, produced by a panel of investigators led by an internationally respected jurist, Richard Goldstone, found extensive evidence that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups took actions amounting to war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war.
But after pushing for the United Nations Human Rights Council to endorse the report and forward it to the Security Council, the Palestinians relented to American pressure last week and agreed to drop the issue for six months. Both the United States and Israel had warned that pursuing the accusations would abort attempts to revive the peace process.
Now the Palestinians are grappling with a domestic and regional uproar, with angry street protests at home and condemnation pouring in from Doha to Damascus.
“The level of public protest is unprecedented,” said Ghassan Khatib, director of the Palestinian Authority’s media center. “I do not remember any situation before when the leadership was so unpopular,” he said, speaking by telephone from Ramallah in the West Bank.
Mr. Khatib said there was a feeling among Palestinian leaders that “they have to reconsider” their approach. With the Human Rights Council out of the picture for the time being, he said, they are seeking other avenues to advance the Goldstone report.
“We have the courage to admit there was a mistake,” Mr. Abed Rabbo, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told the official Voice of Palestine radio. In an attempt at damage control, he added that the mistake could be “repaired.”
Mr. Abed Rabbo was the first senior Palestinian official to speak out publicly against the deferral of the vote on the report. There was no immediate comment from Mr. Abbas, who was in Rome on Wednesday.
At the United Nations, the Palestinian Observer Mission immediately endorsed a move by the Libyan delegation to hold a Security Council discussion on the issue and the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, was due in New York late Wednesday to press the matter.
“Accountability is the first order of business for all of us, including the Americans,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador, when asked about the Palestinian leaders’ reversal. “That is what is impeding the peace process.”
The Security Council agreed Wednesday to move up its monthly debate on the Middle East to Oct. 14 from Oct. 20, and the report will be the focus of that discussion although not officially listed on the agenda. Several Arab ambassadors said they recognized the futility of trying to pass any kind of resolution because the United States would veto it immediately.
The American position is that the report should be handled by the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a consistent opinion among Security Council members.
The Libyan ambassador, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam, said that the judicial aspects of the report could start in Geneva, but that Libya, a current Security Council member, wanted an open debate to give the issue momentum. That could help spur peace, he said, because the decision to delay in Geneva had deepened the already acrid split between the main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.
“The atmosphere on the ground is not helpful,” Ambassador Shalgam said.
Palestinian officials defended their earlier support for a deferral of the vote, saying Israel’s allies would have vetoed moves to advance the report, while a delay gave the Palestinian leadership time to raise international support.
But the Abbas administration clearly had not anticipated such a furor.
In Gaza, posters appeared on walls on Wednesday calling Mr. Abbas a traitor and saying he should be consigned to “the trash heap of history.” Gaza is controlled by Hamas, the militant Islamic group that is the Palestinian Authority’s main rival.
A Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said in a statement that his group would join Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah movement, to take place in Cairo this month, only if Mr. Abbas apologized to the Palestinian people for the so-called debacle around the United Nations report.
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah on Tuesday against the leadership’s conduct and called on Mr. Abbas and other officials to resign.
Even Mr. Abbas’s own government has been critical. In a statement released by the Palestinian cabinet on Monday, the ministers reaffirmed their position of late September, which called for the Human Rights Council to adopt the Goldstone report, and said it was “unacceptable” for such efforts to be undermined.
Apparently distancing himself from the events at the Human Rights Council, Mr. Abbas ordered the establishment of a committee over the weekend to investigate how the deferral of the vote came about, but that failed to quell the storm.
Mr. Abbas finds himself squeezed on several fronts. The Obama administration is pressing the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations, but has not managed to persuade the Israelis to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank. The Abbas administration had made a building freeze a condition for renewed talks.
Last weekend, Hamas took credit for a release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons. Israel freed 20 female security prisoners in exchange for a videotape of an Israeli soldierwho has been held captive since being seized in a raid by Hamas and other groups in June 2006.
In another sign of Palestinian restiveness, there has been simmering violence in the past few days in East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and the Islamic Movement of Israel all accuse Israel of provocations at a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, and Israel is accusing the Palestinians of fanning the flames.
All this underlines the challenges facing George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration’s special Middle East envoy, who was expected to arrive in the region late Wednesday to continue efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.