Illinois Senator Delays Bill

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), objecting to changing a funding formula favorable to his state, has single-handedly thwarted a bill that promises more than $300 million for state high-risk health insurance pools.

Durbin opposes a formula he says benefits smaller states at the expense of larger ones. He tried to negotiate the matter with colleagues but was turned down, he says.

Last week, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance Care questioned Durbin's move in a letter, signed by administrators of 20 state health plans, to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Durbin put a hold on the bill after it passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee with unanimous consent.

The states' high-risk insurance pools offer health insurance to those who cannot get coverage in the marketplace.

Senate Backs EPA Air Rules

The Senate turned back a challenge to the Bush administration's strategy on mercury pollution yesterday, leaving intact federal rules that give power plants flexibility in how they reduce emissions of the toxin. By a 51 to 47 vote, the Senate defeated a resolution to void Environmental Protection Agency rules finalized in March. The Democrats and nine Republicans who supported the repeal contended the EPA approach was too slow and too weak in dealing with a pollutant that can cause neurological damage to children.

The White House said its market-based approach to curtailing mercury pollution is effective and founded on sound science, and warned that the president would veto legislation that overturned the EPA rules.

The administration rules, backed by the utility industry, would set a nationwide cap on mercury emissions and put a ceiling on allowable pollution for each state. Individual plants, through a cap-and-trade system, can avoid cleanups by buying pollution credits from plants that are under allowable levels.

Opponents said the rules would prolong a health risk that leaves newborns vulnerable to birth defects and mental retardation, and would violate the Clean Air Act.

Dissent on Sept. 11 Memorial

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) is asking the Interior Department to reconsider the crescent-shaped design of the memorial to those aboard a plane hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001. In a letter yesterday to National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, Tancredo said many have questioned the shape "because of the crescent's prominent use as a symbol in Islam -- and the fact that the hijackers were radical Islamists."

Flight 93 crashed into a field in southwestern Pennsylvania as its passengers tried to take control of the plane.

The memorial design was approved last week by the Flight 93 Advisory Commission. Congress and the secretary of the interior must sign off on the design. Joanne Hanley, superintendent of the Flight 93 National Memorial, said the design team followed what the memorial mission statement requested. "Crescent of Embrace" is the name of the design, not the memorial, and can be changed, she said.

-- From News Services