8 a.m. ET: The story of health-care reform since the summer has been nothing less than epic. There have been tea parties and blowups in Congress, tens of millions spent on television ads and many millions more on lobbyists and PR campaigns. The public option appeared dead, then came back to life while abortion and immigration flashed into serious controversies. The House passed its reform bill, the most sweeping social legislation approved by the chamber in decades, and now the Senate is struggling toward its own debate.
But through all that turmoil, there is one element of the reform saga that really hasn't changed much -- the polls.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll "shows Americans deeply divided over the proposals under consideration and majorities predicting higher costs ahead," with 48 percent supporting Democrats' reform plans and 49 percent opposed. Those numbers are close to unchanged from the same poll taken three months ago, which had 45 percent in support and 50 percent opposed. In that survey, a combined 67 percent of respondents felt strongly one way or the other, while the new poll puts the number at 69 percent. ABC News notes the "essentially even split" despite the fact that "negatives abound: Fifty-four percent of insured Americans think it'll increase their own costs; among all, 56 percent think it'll raise overall costs, six in 10 think it could shut down many private insurers and 61 percent oppose covering abortions in federally supported plans."
Similarly, Pollster.com's survey average on the question of overall support for health care reform very close to where they were at the beginning of August, before so many of the ups and downs that seemed to lend drama to the debate. The same is true on President Obama's job approval for handling health care; the average response has stayed essentially within the margin of error for more than three months. Why so little change? Is it possible that Americans have been bombarded with so much information, pro and con, that they have essentially tuned it out and held fast to their initial views on reform? Or are they waiting until the House and Senate actually have a compromise bill -- rather than so many different competing versions -- before rendering a final verdict? Perhaps much of the public didn't really understand the specifics of the health-care bills in August, and still don't now.The final fate of reform may depend on the answer, as both sides are counting on a late break of public support toward their position.
In the Senate, "Harry Reid is pressing to advance his version of health-care legislation past a key juncture this week in a bid to avoid a timing crunch that could otherwise kick the proposed revamp into next year," the Wall Street Journal reports. Republicans will filibuster the motion to proceed to the bill, and it's not yet clear whether Reid will have the 60 votes needed to break it. The Majority Leader hopes to unveil the bill latee Tuesday or, more likely, Wednesday. "But even under the most optimistic scenarios, Senate Democratic aides said the chamber would be unlikely to vote on whether to start debate before Friday, and several said a Saturday or Sunday vote was more likely," Roll Call writes. The Washington Post takes a closer look at Blanche Lincoln, one of the handful of centrists who hold the fate of reform in their hands. Unlike Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu, Lincoln is actually up for reelection next year, adding to the pressure of her decisions on health care.
The New York Times profiles Douglas Elmendorf as the Congressional Budget Office studies the Senate bill. "A thumbs-up from Mr. Elmendorf could speed the process along, helping Mr. Obama fulfill his hope of signing a bill into law this year," the Times writes. "A thumbs-down on any of the critical questions — how much the bill costs, how many people it covers, whether it reins in the runaway growth of health spending — could leave the White House and Democrats scrambling." Jonathan Cohn offers some context the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies report that drew attention over the weekend for projecting that health-care costs would continue to rise under the House reform bill. "This report shouldn't convince anybody that cost control is futile," Cohn writes. "If anything, it suggests that cost control is actually within grasp, as long as there's some reasonable political will."
The Los Angeles Times looks at the state of the White House's deal with the pharmaceutical industry, writing that the deal is "threatening to unravel" because "the House legislation would force drug makers to provide bigger discounts when the federal government buys drugs for low-income senior citizens on Medicare. The bill also would give the government new authority to negotiate lower prices for all seniors on Medicare. Now, in another bid to pressure the industry, a bipartisan group of senators wants to open the door to lower-priced prescription drugs from other countries. Still other lawmakers want to speed the development of cheaper generic versions of biologic drugs, a new class of pharmaceuticals." AP breaks out its own survey on paying for reform, finding that "Americans see just one way to go: Tax the rich." Respondents did not back the idea of taxing "Cadillac plans," the survey found. "Lawmakers also are looking at levying new taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. But the only approach that got majority support in the AP poll was a tax on upper-income Americans."
Obama, meanwhile, remains on his Asia trip and took a whirlwind tour of the Forbidden City Tuesday. Obama also met with Hu Jintao, and the two presidents "told reporters afterward that the United States and China were in agreement on a range of issues, but they spoke only in general terms" and "neither took questions from reporters, staying in line with the minutely stage-managed atmosphere of Mr. Obama’s first visit to China," the New York Times writes. "Topics on the agenda," Bloomberg reports, "include the U.S. president’s pursuit of a more 'balanced' economic relationship, joint efforts on negotiations leading to a global climate change treaty and efforts to bring North Korea back to the bargaining table over its nuclear program."
Beijing's strict limits on Obama's activities and media coverage remains a dominant theme for the press. "Obama is finding it hard to bring his trademark charisma to bear," the Wall Street Journal writes, as "'ongtime observers say the visit, which ends Wednesday, is one of the most tightly controlled in recent memory, with Mr. Obama afforded none of the opportunities to reach Chinese people given to his two predecessors." The Washington Times checks in with disappointed human rights advocates, who wanted Obama to deliver a stronger message to China.
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