8 a.m. ET: President Obama and congressional Democrats moved closer to the end of a very bumpy road this week, as the House now has a health-care reform bill that is expected to pass the chamber and the Senate is crafting a measure that is similar in many key respects.
Nancy Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats unveiled their long-awaited health bill Thursday morning, one that includes a more moderate version of the public option -- with negotiated reimbursement rates for providers -- after leaders could not muster 218 votes for the more "robust" version. The Wall Street Journal writes, "While liberals praised the measure, key blocs of House Democrats haven't offered their endorsement. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition said Thursday that it wants more proof that the bill lowers federal health spending in the long term." The Associated Press looks at the losers, noting that the measure "would impose an array of new taxes, fees and government mandates on major players in the health industry, including insurers, doctors and drugs and medical devices makers." Care for illegal immigrants remains a sticking point, as does funding for abortion.
Despite some griping from both the right and left, the bill looks destined to pass when it hits the floor next week. In an interview Thursday with David Rogers, Pelosi said “I’m not big on showing weakness. It’s not my thing. I don’t like to have predictable losses.” Writing on the bill unveiling event Thursday, Dana Milbank says "Pelosi's legislative finesse was not matched by her skills as a pep rally organizer. Only about 80 House Democrats, about a third of the caucus, were on the stage on the cool and gray morning." Ezra Klein has John Dingell -- a longtime supporter of a single-payer system -- saying the House bill "is as good as can be done now."
How much will the bill actually cost? Glad you asked. Roll Call writes that Pelosi "had touted the bill as costing $894 billion when she released it online earlier in the day, but that number nets out $167 billion in new pay-or-play taxes on individuals and businesses." The actual "gross" cost -- the number most commonly used when discussing CBO scores -- is $1.055 trillion, though the agency also found that the measure would cut the deficit by $104 billion, and that "the deficit would continue to shrink slightly in the second decade after the bill is adopted, a key issue for many moderate Democrats." That didn't stop Republicans from seizing on the higher top-line number, emphasizing that it exceeded Obama's desired $900 billion price tag. As Politico puts it, "Both numbers are correct, but Democrats shifted the terms of the debate and cherry picked the lower one." The New York Times adds that "Republicans said gimmicks had been used to hide the measure’s long-term costs." (Perhaps more importantly, CBO also concluded that the public insurance plans envisioned in the House bill would likely have higher premiums that private plans, the opposite of what Democrats hoped.)
In the Senate, Harry Reid is still juggling the competing demands of various lawmakers in his hunt for 60 votes. Bloomberg writes, "The Nevada Democrat is under growing pressure to exempt more workers from a proposed tax on high-end insurance plans; cut in half a proposed $40 billion fee on medical-device makers; increase subsidies to help lower-income Americans get coverage, and make it easier for the elderly to buy medication." David Broder dumps on Reid's plan to include a provision allowing states to opt out of the public plan, lamenting that the leader "bent to the political pressure and put his own needs first." While the House bill includes a revocation of the insurance industry's antitrust exemption, the Senate bill won't, according to Huffington Post. The New York Times profiles Tom Coburn, who -- shockingly -- hates Democrats' reform proposals and plans to slow them down on the floor as best he can.
Separate from the health-care fight,
The Washington Post writes on the contents of an internal House ethics committee report, leaked after being placed on a publicly accessible computer network, that detailed the status of probes against more than two dozen lawmakers as of July. Most notably, the report reveals that seven members of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense are under investigation for their ties to the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA. Politico writes that "Republicans — who have pummeled Pelosi for not doing more to 'drain the swamp,' as she promised in 2006 — pounced on the suggestion that the Democrats' ethics problems may be much wider than previously reported."
On the Foggy Bottom front, Hillary Clinton has had a busy week. David Plouffe's book has been getting considerable play, particularly its revelation that Obama had considered Clinton as a potential running mate more seriously than had previously been known. In her current job, Clinton made headlines Thursday by pressuring Pakistan to do more to crack down on al Qaeda, suggesting that some Pakistani officials were deliberately underperforming at that task. "It is extremely rare for an official of Mrs. Clinton’s rank to say publicly what American politicians and intelligence officials have said in more guarded ways for years," observes the New York Times. While in Pakistan, Clinton paused to announce that a deal had been reached in Honduras to allow the deposed former president to return to power.
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