8 a.m. ET: The health-care reform roller-coaster has been through more ups and downs in the last six months than are possible to count. With a Senate deal on the public option in the offing, Wednesday is clearly an "up" day.
The Associated Press ledes: "After agreeing tentatively to jettison a key liberal priority — a full-blown government-run insurance option — Democrats say they are getting close to pushing President Barack Obama's health care bill through the Senate." Negotiators were "hoping to remove a last major roadblock preventing the bill from moving to a final vote in the chamber," the Washington Post writes, and the deal reached Tuesday appears to have pleased most (but not all) moderates and liberals in the chamber. The New York Times explains: "Under the agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could “buy in” to Medicare. And a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress."
TalkingPointsMemo has a detailed run-down of the tentative plan, plus the suggestion that the White House likes it. Ezra Klein is waiting for more specifics: "What are the conditions for the non-profit plans? How many plans do there need to be? What does the regulation look like? When does the Medicare buy-in start? But assuming those pieces don't come in much worse than expected, the combination of national non-profits and a Medicare buy-in seems like a pretty good deal. Better by far than what Democrats looked likely to get a week ago. And more likely, by far, to seed health-care reform with scalable experiments."
The public option breakthrough came after the Senate defeated Ben Nelson's amendment to place restrictions on abortion funding and coverage. The Hill calls the vote "a development that could imperil Democrats’ efforts to pass an underlying healthcare reform bill," because Nelson has said that he might filibuster the measure without the abortion language. "We'll just have to see what develops," Nelson said after the tally, suggesting that there still may be a deal to be had. Michelle Goldberg writes that Senate Democrats "finally demonstrated some respect for the feminists who are a crucial part of the Democratic Party," and in the process avoided alienating a huge bloc of women voters.
Time observes that the defeat "puts the Catholic bishops conference in the position of following through on its pledge to vigorously oppose health reform if Stupak/Nelson language is not included. ... But remember that they never reached that point during House consideration because of the last-minute deal struck concerning the Stupak amendment. There is something symbolically more weighty about actually working to defeat health reform -- a goal that the bishops have supported for decades -- than just threatening to do so. And it might be a tougher sell among Catholics in the pews." Bart Stupak himself takes to the New York Times op-ed page "to set the record straight: Our amendment maintains current law, which says that there should be no federal financing for abortion."
Beyond abortion and the public option, USA Today looks at some of the "hidden nuggets" in the bill, "from work breaks for breastfeeding moms to a requirement that chain restaurants disclose how many calories are in the fries." Despite the economic recession, McClatchy notes "26 states this year made it easier for low-income children, parents or pregnant women to get health coverage, according to a report released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation." And David Leonhardt writes on cost cutting: "Every time Congress comes up with an idea for cutting spending, the cry goes out: Patients will suffer! You’re cutting bone, not fat! ... The only way to cut health care costs is to cut health care costs and, in the process, invite politically potent scare stories." Atul Gawande covers the same subject, calling cost "the spectre haunting health reform."
On the economic front, Obama's address Tuesday formally kicked off the race to complete a job-creation package. There is little chance that a measure will pass this year, but debates have begun anyway over what should be in the package and how to pay for it. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama unveiled "job-creation proposals that largely build on the initial [stimulus] package, including a hiring tax credit that his own party jettisoned as unworkable and some business owners deemed ineffective." The Journal adds that "Obama avoided calling his jobs push a new stimulus plan. But White House officials acknowledged that the president was taking stimulus components that he believed worked best and extending or amplifying them."Steven Pearlstein praises Obama's proposal for "its restraint and its willingness to embrace seemingly contradictory ideas," as Obama simultaneously talks of new spending to create jobs and cutting the deficit.
Roll Call writes that Republicans "ramped up their attacks" Tuesday on Democrats' proposal to use unspent money from the TARP program to pay for a jobs bill, suggesting that the majority was creating "a 'slush fund' for pet Democratic projects." Bloomberg reports that Tim Geithner wants to extend the TARP program through next October. Out in the real world, BusinessWeek writes, "Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation's direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery," according to a new Bloomberg National Poll, which also found that "almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when ... Obama took office in January."
Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, and both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal weigh in Wednesday on the balance he must strike as he accepts it. The Journal says Obama will deliver "a speech that aims at historical resonance but is constrained by his status as a new, wartime president. Administration officials say the speech, which the president is drafting himself, will address the irony of receiving a peace prize a week after ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan, and the need for continued leadership on nuclear disarmament." The Times writes that Obama "has read the Nobel speeches of Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Elie Wiesel. He has studied the award’s rich history and its extraordinary roster of winners. Yet when President Obama travels to Norway to accept his prize on Thursday, he faces a far different challenge than those who have gone before him: He is a wartime leader, accepting a medal that is a commendation to peace, which even he insists he does not yet deserve."
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