May 5, 2017

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David Byrd reporting.

The House of Representatives votes to overturn former President Obama's health care law.

After some last minute debate on Thursday, the House narrowly passed the bill.

"The ayes are 217. The nays are 213. The bill is passed. And without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table."

The major difference between Obamacare and the new bill is coverage for pre-existing conditions. Obamacare barred insurance companies from charging customers more because of such illnesses. The new bill would allow states to have the choice to opt out of that condition.

Critics say people who were sick because of no fault of their own may no longer be able to afford health insurance.

Republican leaders traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue to meet with President Trump after the House vote.

On the South Lawn, the president said that the American health care act will be a better deal for patients.

"It's been a catastrophe and this is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better. And this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare, make no mistake about it."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Capitol Hill that Republicans will have to deal with all the consequences of this legislation.

"But, it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity because the public will now see what they gave their name to. They have put their name next to your paying more for less."

The measure has to pass the Senate, where it is likely to undergo significant changes. Republicans control 52 of 100 Senate seats and the new bill could have a difficult time finding support from moderates.

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President Donald Trump loosened the government's enforcement of a rule that bars tax-exempt churches from participating in political activity.

In a White House ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer service day, Trump announced the executive order.

"We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never, ever stand for religious discrimination, never, ever."

Trump said the order gives "maximum enforcement discretion" to the Internal Revenue Service in tracking the ban on political activity by religious groups.

It does not directly repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment, which forbids political activity from religious organizations because of their tax exempt status.

The order gives "regulatory relief" to conservative religious groups that object to provisions of the national health care reforms that required them to pay for health insurance plans that cover birth control and other measures they feel go against their faiths.

Asian-Pacific foreign ministers say that North Korea must abide by all U.N. Security Council resolutions, demanding it give up its nuclear ambitions.

The ministers were in Washington Thursday for a special ASEAN meeting hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson and the Trump administration are courting Asian support for U.S. efforts to pressure Pyongyang into scrapping its arms buildup, including efforts to build a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S.

Much of the attention has been directed at China, North Korea's chief ally, but all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have diplomatic relations with North Korea. Washington believes they can also put pressure on Pyongyang, including economic pressure.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed to a Moscow-proposed deal to establish the so-called "de-escalation" zones in Syria to try to end the six-year conflict there.

Representatives of the three Syria cease-fire guarantor nations signed a memorandum to that effect at the end of the latest round of peace talks in Kazakhstan.

The proposal calls for taking measures to reduce fighting in four designated areas of Syria where rebels not associated with the Islamic State terror group control significant territory.

No details were released on how the three countries, which support different sides in the conflict, would attempt to end the violence.

A mixed day on Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing lower, but the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ up. European markets were higher. Asian markets were mixed.

I'm David Byrd in Washington.

That's the latest world news from VOA.