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The Rundown

8 a.m. ET: Congress will bear down this week on two of the most vexing issues in the health-care debate -- how to pay for the reform plan, and whether it should include a public insurance option -- as well as side skirmishes on topics like abortion and drug reimportation.

The Senate Finance Committee's ongoing markup pits Democrats against each other, and outside groups are also participating in intraparty warfare: The Progressive Campaign Change Committee and Democracy for America are airing an ad in D.C. and Montana accusing Max Baucus of being on the side of insurance companies. Baucus has to navigate the bill through three different factions of Senate Democrats, Kaiser Health News writes.

No one expects the Finance Committee's final bill to include the public option, but supporters argue that the very fact the panel will draw attention to the topic by debating it this week will give the cause a boost before they try again on the Senate floor. After the New York Times stated as fact Monday that the combined Senate bill would not include the public option, Harry Reid's office made a point of pushing back to say no decisions had been made yet on what would be in the bill. Seeking to reassure fellow liberals, Jonathan Cohn looks abroad to the example of the Netherlands, which "has managed to build a popular and successful universal health care program based entirely on private insurance."

Senators can also expect to vote soon on an amendment that would allow reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada -- and blow up Obama's carefully negotiated deal with PhRMA -- courtesy of Byron Dorgan. And the New York Times reports on the growing fight over whether federally-subsidized private insurance plans would pay for abortions. Whatever ends up in the bill, The American Prospect makes an important point about the political impact reform's passage would have: Most reforms wouldn't take effect until at least 2013, "So when reform passes, our deeply pathological health-care system will remain nearly as pathological for three full years. ... [M]ost people will go through a midterm congressional election and the next presidential election, before they experience any of the benefits (or costs) of reform."

President Obama, for one, believes the health-care debate is going fairly well, and that's why he is now willing to take time out this week to visit Copenhagen to lobby for bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Echoing a theme common in the coverage, the Los Angeles Times says the president is "putting his political prestige on the line" and that the trip "is a gamble for Obama. He will be leaving Washington with thorny foreign and domestic issues unresolved, and risks looking diminished if Chicago's bid falls short." Similarly, the New York Times writes "Obama risks looking parochial at a time of enormous challenges and, perhaps even worse, risks a major international embarrassment if the committee rebuffs him and rejects Chicago in favor of Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid." The assumption is that Obama's decision to go reflects confidence in the White House that he has a good chance of success, but Robert Gibbs said Monday that the administration had "gotten no intelligence on that." Some Republicans have already started making the case that Obama will be wasting valuable time that could be better spent devoted to a priority like Afghanistan, but the president will only be on the ground a few hours -- about the same amount of time he has repeatedly spent playing golf.

While Obama is in Denmark, diplomats will be in Geneva for intensive talks on Iran's nuclear program. "The Obama administration is laying plans to cut Iran's economic links to the rest of the world if talks this week over the country's nuclear ambitions founder," the Washington Post writes. The UN Security Council will likely give Iran one more chance to halt its objectional activities. "But U.S. officials familiar with the process that dates back to the Bush administration are skeptical that Iran will agree to demands to fully disclose its intentions," the Associated Press reports. Gerald Seib offers five questions the UN should pose to Iran.

On Afghanistan, Obama drew criticism Monday from an old ally of the U.S, -- Pervez Musharraf. The former Pakistani president told the Washington Times that the administration's "vacillation and lack of commitment to a victory and talking too much about casualties ... shows weakness in the resolve." NATO's secretary general called for a course correction in the Afpak campaign, saying that the allies need to devote more resources to civilian reconstruction projects and more troops to training Afghan security personnel. On the Hill, the Senate is debating the Defense appropriations bill this week, likely including amendments on troop withdrawal. Republicans are continuing their drumbeat for Stanley McChrystal to testify before Congress, though Politico points out "that when Democrats demanded Gen. David Petraeus leave Iraq to come testify before congressional committees, several Republicans criticized the move, saying Congress should not be pulling a field general from the battlefield for political testimony."

By Ben Pershing  |  September 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Dems can "force a vote" on Health Care, but the American people, their boss, will exercise their right to vote come November 2010.

Posted by: Texan2007 | September 29, 2009 10:46 AM

Sen. Chuck Grassley argued today (9/29) against the Rockefeller public option amendment to the Baucus health care bill. A major concern of his was that the public option, as in the case of Medicare, will drive other insurance plans out of business as well as loss of health care providers who can't afford to operate with the lower reimbursements a public option would allow. That argument is specious because the private insurance plans will be able to compete by providing access to health care providers who refuse enroll in the public option.

I still oppose the Baucus bill as being overly complex. I don't like allowing three age-based tiers as the concept of insurance is to spread the cost of illness among the healthy so that the sick don't have to bear the entire cost. It also needlessly creates new bureaucracy when the existing bureaucracies that manages FEHBP and Medicare could be given the responsibilities to manage the health exchange and the public option, respectively.

Posted by: BTMPost | September 29, 2009 12:08 PM

Loony-left d-crat socialist make-up tip #85:

Take an ugly "public option" (i.e. nationalization and full government control of a rationed healthcare system), and apply LIBERAL amounts of lipstick and -wallah!- you now have a beautiful "healthcare cooperative".

Now that's "Change We Can Believe In".

Posted by: LoonyLeft | September 29, 2009 3:04 PM

@LoonyLeft: Are physicians too liberal for you? Almost 2/3 of physicians support a public option, and 58% favor opening Medicare to those 55 years old. This is according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

THAT is change America's doctors believe in.

And if public option insurance is so bad, let's dump public option crop insurance, public option flood insurance, and public option export insurance.

Posted by: Garak | September 29, 2009 3:21 PM

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