8 a.m. ET: Liberals spent a good portion of the health-care debate complaining that President Obama was insufficiently committed to including the public option in a reform bill, accusing him of sacrificing a cause that was important to them for the sake of political expediency. It sounds as though Obama is trying -- cautiously -- to avoid the same charge on abortion.
In an interview with ABC News Monday, Obama weighed in on the controversy that has divided Democrats. "I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill," Obama said. "And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions. And I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices, because one of the pledges I made in that same speech was to say that if you're happy and satisfied with the insurance that you have, that it's not going to change." He added: "There are strong feelings on both sides, and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."
What exactly does all that "on the one hand, on the other hand" mean? The New York Times writes that Obama "suggested Monday that he was not comfortable with abortion restrictions inserted into the House version of major health care legislation, and he prodded Congress to revise them." Roll Call says abortion rights supporters "got a critical boost" from Obama's comments, and adds that more than 40 Democrats have now vowed to vote against a conference report that includes the Stupak language. How should the language be changed, and if it is, would the coalition that passed the measure in the House Saturday fall apart? Politico writes that Senate moderates like Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and Mary Landrieu all urged Harry Reid Monday to include restrictions on abortion funding in the Senate bill as well.
Perhaps Senate Democrats can solicit a solution to the whole mess from President Bill Clinton, who is coming to address the party's weekly luncheon Tuesday. The Hill reports that "Senate Democratic leaders expect their long-awaited healthcare bill to hit the chamber floor as early as Monday," after the Congressional Budget Office releases its score of the Senate bill late this week or early next week. That price tag will be crucial, as the New York Times writes "the White House is facing a growing revolt from some Democrats and analysts who say the bills Congress is considering do not fulfill President Obama’s promise to slow the runaway rise in health care spending," adding that "health economists say it is impossible to know" whether the reform bills would meet Obama's stated goal of reducing health spending by 1.5 percent over the next decade. And the Washington Times suggests the House bill uses "fuzzy math," meaning that its price tag could end up far higher than the official number of $1.1 trillion. The Wall Street Journal notes the "stark choice for Democrats between the interests of younger voters and older ones," as the House bill mandates that "older people could pay no more than twice what the youngest customers are charged" for insurance.
On Afghanistan, the Associated Press reports that Obama "is nearing a decision to add tens of thousands more forces to Afghanistan, though probably not quite the 40,000 sought by his top general there," and that "the deployment would most probably begin in January with a mission to stiffen the defense of 10 key cities and towns." (McClatchy reported Saturday that Obama was leaning toward an increase of 34,000 military personnel.) CBS News adds that Obama is expected to give Stanley McChrystal "most, if not all, the additional troops he is asking for ... the president has tentatively decided to send four combat brigades plus thousands more support troops." CBS says the decision will be announced the week before Thanksgiving, after Obama returns from China. (The White House denies that any decision has been made.)
As for that upcoming trip to Asia, the Wall Street Journal writes "the president isn't likely to bring along tangible concessions on hot-button issues, nor will he return with concrete achievements. Unfinished business -- from the shape of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, to a South Korean free-trade agreement, to climate change, trade and currency issues with China -- will remain unfinished." Tensions on the Korean peninsula will surely be on the agenda, as a North Korean ship has exchanged fire with a South Korean vessel along the country's disputed coastline. The Washington Post reports that Obama has decided to send a top diplomat to Pyongyang for direct talks.
In the midst of so much news, the AP moved this crucial dispatch Tuesday: "Obama's 'crustmaster' shares his pie recipe." It is what it sounds like -- the much-loved apple pie recipe of the White House pastry chef, otherwise known to the Obamas as "the Crustmaster." (Seriously.) The secret, AP reveals, is that he bakes the bottom crust first, then adds the filling and returns it to the oven. Now you know.
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