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The left-of-center Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, which was critical of a number of provisions in the Senate Finance Committee's health care proposal, has much, much kinder words for the full Senate bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled this week.

"The new Senate health bill marks a major step toward comprehensive, fiscally responsible health reform," said executive director Robert Greenstein. "It would extend health insurance coverage to 31 million Americans who lack it, reduce the budget deficit, and put long-term downward pressure on health care costs."

CBPP had been particularly critical of the "free-rider" employer mandate provision in the Finance bill, which Reid has rectified. Greenstein says the main problem with the bill now is its affordability (or lack thereof) for working-class Americans.

The bill strengthens affordability by improving the premium subsidies in the Senate Finance Committee bill for the millions of households with incomes between 154 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line -- that is, between $28,200 and $73,240 for a family of three. Unfortunately, the new bill reduces the subsidies in the Finance Committee bill for near-poor households at the bottom of the subsidy range, which already were less than adequate. A family of three with income of $27,465 (150 percent of the poverty line) would have to pay $1,250 for premiums, or over $400 more than under the House bill. Many families with incomes this low already struggle to pay the rent and utilities and put food on the table and could have difficulty paying this much for health coverage.


You can read more about the bill's premium assistance provisions here.


An artist's rendering of the George W. Bush's Presidential Center in Southern Methodist University. On Nov. 18, former First Lady Laura Bush unveiled the designs for the center, which will contain an archive, a museum and a policy institute.

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Visitors will enter the archive and museum through "Freedom Hall" and see a replica of the Oval Office, as Bush knew it. The design is supposed to be "both presidential and welcoming."

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The entry to the George W. Bush Institute, which will include an auditorium for lectures and offices for scholars. The policy institute will be "guided by the principles of freedom [and] opportunity," according to the center's web site.

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The lobby of the policy institute. According to a press release, the building will be made with local Texas materials and will have several energy-saving properties, including solar panels and a system that will use storm water to irrigate the grounds.

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The "Texas Rose Garden."

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The grounds will be used as a public park, with spaces for public performances and intramural sports.

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The view from the garden, toward Dallas. Read more on the design.

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A good government group is calling on the State Department to investigate the role of former ambassador Peter Galbraith in drafting Iraq's constitution in 2005 while he held a lucrative stake in a Kurdish oil field.

The letter from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the State Dept. Inspector General asks whether State approved Galbraith's activities, and cites a recent New York Times exposé that built off work of the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv.

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The headline pretty much says everything you need to know. Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) had been threatening to require that the entire 2000-plus page health care bill be read aloud on the Senate floor once it overcomes its first major procedural hurdle. Now, I've confirmed that the Republicans have agreed to back off this plan in exchange for Democrats allowing a full-day's debate on Saturday, before the scheduled evening vote.

Also, and importantly, as part of a unanimous consent agreement, the Saturday vote will serve as the motion to proceed itself. If there are 60 votes on Saturday, the bill will be on the floor, and debate can begin.

Happy Saturday!

Before Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue," was released to the public, the Associated Press published a much-heralded fact check that detailed where her claims didn't line up with reality. It was possible in part because the AP snagged a copy of Palin's book early.

There's a lot to how the AP found the books - and beat their competitors - detailed in a weekly internal newsletter to the company's 4,000 employees and obtained by Talking Points Memo.

Mike Oreskes, a senior managing editor, offers staffers a description of the AP's own work tracking down and fact checking the book and it reads like a spy thriller:

"The AP was determined to get the first copy," Oreskes wrote, detailing how the writers learned a store had "inadvertently placed the book on sale five days before its official Nov. 17 release date."

"They bought a copy, ripped it from its spine and scanned it into the system so it could be read and electronically searched," he wrote. "A NewsNow moved within 40 minutes, followed quickly by multiple leads as details were gleaned from the 413-page manuscript."

Paul Colford, director of media relations for the AP, said the latest edition of "Beat of the Week" newsletter lauding the reporters who tracked down "Going Rogue" showcased the wire service was "dogged enough" to find the book and "be able to echo what was in it before it was in wider circulation."

"There's no greater fox hunt in newsgathering around the publication of a big book than the rush to be the first to get it and say what it says," Colford told TPMDC.

In the newsletter, the AP congratulates the two reporters who found the book for their work, and jabs a bit at the competition. The reporters will share a $500 cash prize awarded to the best beats at the AP each week.

Read the "Going Rogue" portion of the weekly newsletter - which also lauds other reporters' unrelated works - after the jump.

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Washington Times editorial page editor Richard Miniter, who Tuesday filed a discrimination complaint against the newspaper, will take another step tomorrow by suing the Times in federal district court in Washington, his lawyer, Larry Klayman, tells TPM.

"We're filing a hard-hitting lawsuit to remedy the harm caused to Richard and to freeze the assets of the Washington Times," Klayman said, declining to detail the specific allegations in the suit. He said he had given notice to the Times' attorney, and that the paper, along with individuals, including Publisher Jonathan Slevin, would be named as defendants.

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The Democratic National Committee raised $11.5 million in October, breaking the fundraising record for an off-year election.

A party source tells TPMDC the DNC will report that it has $12.3 million cash on hand and owes $4.4 million.

The Republican National Committee, as we reported earlier, has zero debt and $11.2 million in the bank. They raised $8.7 million.

Year to date and including transfers and in-kind contributions, the DNC has raised $73.3 million. The RNC has raised $76.9 million.

Late Update: The actual filing has the DNC with $12.9 million cash on hand.

The latest absentee ballot totals from the NY-23 special election show Democratic Rep. Bill Owens leading his Conservative Party opponent Doug Hoffman -- with a greater margin than there are absentee ballots left to be counted.

The Watertown Daily Times reports that Owens leads by 3,105 votes, with 3,072 ballots left to count. It is mathematically impossible for Hoffman to win.

Owens was sworn in two weeks ago, after Hoffman had conceded the election. The correction of routine clerical errors, however, narrowed Owens' margin from 5,000 votes to about 3,000, leading Hoffman to take back his concession.

Last night, Hoffman charged that the election was stolen: "ACORN, the unions and Democratic Party were scared, and that's why they tampered with the ballots of voters in NY-23."

Late Update: Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan declined to comment specifically on these numbers, as he had not yet seen them in the figures that he gets from the county boards of elections. "We have found certain irregularities," said Ryan. "And when the count is completed, and we take a look -- and we have until Monday to decide whether to file those objections -- we are going to make a decision between now and then on whether and how to proceed."

A new Zogby poll suggests that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) could seriously endanger her 2010 re-election by supporting the health care bill.

In initial match-ups, Lincoln leads state Sen. Gilbert Baker by 41%-39%, within the ±4.5% margin of error, and has a healthier lead of 45%-29% over state Sen. Kim Hendren.

In a series of follow-up questions, respondents were then asked how they would feel if Lincoln supported the bill. In a new match-up with Baker, Lincoln's previous edge of 41%-39% turns into a Baker lead of 49%-37%.

Earlier today, I had an interesting exchange with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) about the abortion language in the Senate health care bill. She seemed to think Harry Reid made the right call--that the provision is similar in many ways to the provision passed by the Senate Finance Committee, which she supported. Interestingly, though, she also said the notorious Group of Six health care negotiators--including staunch conservatives Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi--also thought that language was acceptable.

"We discussed that for an extensive period of time within the Group of Six and what approach to take that would work, and be consistent, with codifying current law, and we thought that the approach that was embraced in the Senate Finance Committee did that."

Now, of course, Republicans are all up in arms. I asked Snowe whether Grassley and Enzi believed at the time that Reid's approach--segregating federal and private funds to prevent tax payer dollars from financing abortion--was sufficient.

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