8 a.m. ET: Two of the drivers of health-care reform in the House and Senate have reason for good cheer Friday morning, as the former got some good news on the price front and the latter is increasingly confident his party will stand with him.
Nancy Pelosi got a welcome report Thursday: The Washington Post writes that the all-powerful Congressional Budget Office has scored a pair of House health-care plans, and both are near the $900 billion price limit negotiators are using as a guide. One measure, using Medicare as a guide for reimbursement rates, would cost $905 billion, and the other, with negotiated rates, would cost $859 billion. (The latter bill would also shift more people onto Medicaid and provide a smaller subsidy for individuals to buy insurance.)
At a party caucus meeting Thursday, Pelosi "told fellow Democrats the time has come for all members of the party to say where they stand on the government-run health insurance program," the Hill reports. "Pelosi informed her caucus that she will be asking which of the various public options members can support, or if they cannot support any at all." A similar discussion happened in the Senate at Democrats' weekly policy lunch, where "liberals went after the Senate Finance Committee bill and made clear they won’t roll over for legislation that doesn’t include a public option," Politico writes. Newsweek looks at two conflicting polls on the subject, noting that support for the public option varies widely depending on how the question is framed.
Pelosi, an early proponent of making insurance companies the "villains" in this tale, joined in her fellow Democrats' bashing of insurers Thursday, threatening to revoke their antitrust exemption and pass a flat fee on them to raise money to pay for reform. Paul Krugman writes on the now-infamous AHIP report, suggesting "the end result of AHIP’s blunder may be a better bill than we would otherwise have had." The insurers are already hitting back with ads, and now doctors are on the air too: The American Medical Association launched a campaign urging Congress to increase payments for doctors treating Medicare patients. At a meeting Wednesday, the Associated Press reports, Harry Reid "told physicians at the session to 'back off' on another priority — curbing lawsuits for medical malpractice."
Max Baucus is brimming with confidence, telling reporters "every Democrat will vote for" a reform bill and "there will be at least one Republican and maybe a couple more who also will vote for it." Let's just hold the vote Friday and go home until Thanksgiving! Baucus and Reid huddled with Rahm Emanuel and other White House officials Thursday, ushering the reform saga back into a phase where each day's news consists of reporting, "there was a meeting." (Editors will surely reward the reporters who can reveal what the participants in said meetings eat and drink.)
The situation in Afghanistan, meanwhile, actually appears to be getting more complicated, if that's possible. An investigation of the presidential election there shows that Hamid Karzai received less than 50 percent of the vote, a result that would necessitate a runoff between him and the No. 2 finisher, Abdullah Abdullah. As the White House debate continues, the Washington Times writes that James Jones "has repeatedly shifted his assessments of the war as he transformed himself from a top Marine general to a civilian adviser in recent years."
In New Orleans Thursday, President Obama got one of his toughest questions in awhile -- from a fourth-grader, who asked, "Why do people hate you?" Obama gave a long answer. And Obama sought to deflect criticism that his stop in the city was too brief, citing progress since he took office in rebuilding the areas still damaged from Katrina. Per the earlier mention of food color, USA Today reports: "The quick trip didn't allow Obama to sit down for lunch. But his staff did grab a 'to-go' order from legendary New Orleans restaurant, Dooky Chase. The presidential order included gumbo, shrimp Creole and fried chicken — enough to feed 15 people."
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