8 a.m. ET: Cancel those weekend plans: You've now got a date Saturday night with health-care reform.
The Senate measure faces a key procedural vote Saturday evening, and Harry Reid is still working to assemble the requisite 60 votes. Politico says Reid and fellow Democrats "projected confidence they could clear the first hurdle for health reform." The Washington Post writes that "a tepid assessment of the public insurance plan he crafted emerged as the latest potential obstacle" to passage. USA Today notes that the public option in the Senate bill "would cover less than 1.5% of the population," raising questions about how much impact the provision will actually have, positive or negative.
The New York Times says that Reid has essentially taken "ownership" of the Senate bill, which, if it eventually becomes law, "would be the biggest accomplishment of his career. Should the bill fall victim to the complex political, procedural and substantive fights raging around health care, it would be a stinging defeat for him, his president and his party — all while he faces a tough re-election fight at home." Reid is courting moderates the old-fashioned way -- with cash. ABC News reports that the bill contains a provision, estimated to cost $100 million, that would boost Medicaid subsidies for "certain states recovering from a major disaster." Translation -- Louisiana, the home state of Mary Landrieu.
Is Tom Coburn still holding out the threat that he will force a complete reading of the bill? The Hill reports that he has relented, perhaps because Republicans would have had to be on the floor the entire time to block Democrats' efforts to halt the reading. Roll Call writes "the GOP leadership agreed to forego the reading of the Senate bill as well as separate, simple majority vote on starting debate on the bill in exchange for an all-day debate on the measure Saturday. "
Expect to hear this phrase a lot more from Republicans as the debate moves forward: "Senate Democrats' health care bill would create a new marriage penalty by imposing a tax on individuals who make $200,000 annually but hitting married couples making just $50,000 more," the Washington Times writes. "That's one of 17 new taxes imposed by the bill, which also creates a levy on elective plastic surgery -- some call it 'botax' -- and places a 40 percent excise tax on those who have generous health care plans." Of course, the plastic surgeons' lobby is clamoring to stop the botax.
The Wall Street Journal also takes a closer look at the extra Medicare payroll tax: "Conservatives said the proposed Medicare tax increase undermines the claim that Medicare is a social-insurance program, not a vehicle to redistribute wealth. ... Democrats said it makes sense to charge the wealthy a little more in exchange for benefits they enjoy upon reaching age 65." Ezra Klein says reform "is, at its base, a grand bargain: The coverage expansion gets liberals to agree to, and even advocate for, cost controls they would never otherwise consider."
Meanwhile, the debate over new breast-cancer screening guidelines "may set the tone for a battle over ... Obama’s health-care overhaul that will resonate for years," Bloomberg reports, as conservatives claim the recommendation represents the sort of government rationing that will be promoted under Obamacare. Also stirring controversy: new guidelines on when and how often women should get Pap tests for cervical cancer. The New York Times says this week "the science of medicine bumped up against the foundations of American medical consumerism: that more is better, that saving a life is worth any sacrifice, that health care is a birthright."
Elsewhere on the Hill, "growing discontent over the economy and frustration with efforts to speed its recovery boiled over Thursday on Capitol Hill in a wave of criticism and outright anger directed at the Obama administration," the Washington Post writes. Opposition is bubbling to financial regulatory reform in both chambers, and a few Republicans and at least one Democrat, Peter DeFazio, are calling for Tim Geithner to resign. Roll Call writes that DeFazio plans to urge members of the Congressional Populist Caucus -- yes, there is one -- to back his call for Geithner's ouster. Bloomberg writes that Geithner is likely to hear such calls more often, particularly from Republicans, as the 2010 elections approach.
Geithner does have a defender today, in the form of David Brooks, who writes "the evidence of the past eight months suggests that Geithner was mostly right and his critics were mostly wrong. The financial sector is in much better shape than it was then. TARP money is being repaid, and the debate now is what to do with the billions that were never needed. It now seems clear that nationalization would have been an unnecessary mistake — potentially expensive and dangerously disruptive."
Who will be the junior senator from New York in 2011? Speculation about Rudy Giuliani's intentions swirled all day Thursday, amid questions on whether he would run for governor, or senator or both. The New York Times helped spark the discussion by reporting that Giuliani "has decided not to run for governor next year after months of considering a candidacy," and that it's "unclear whether the former mayor is considering any other political race in 2010." Other outlets were less cautious. The Associated Press writes, with oddly thin sourcing for the newswire, that Giuliani is "leaning" toward a Senate bid against Kirsten Gillibrand. The New York Daily News headlines its story: "Rudy Giuliani will very likely seek U.S. Senate seat, and if elected maybe 2012 White House: source." (Is he really going to launch a White House bid immediately after being elected to the Senate? Sounds unlikely.) The New York Post essentially says the opposite about a Senate bid, that "many people close to him said they considered such a run unlikely." A source very close to the Rundown -- in fact, the Rundown himself -- predicts Giuliani won't run for anything. But you can't quote him.
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