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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an interview this morning that union groups view the health care bill as "a good first step."

He did not directly address a question about reports of changes to the excise tax that unions were uncomfortable with early in the negotiations, but lauded the final product and said it can be improved upon.

He said the union talks with people writing the final bill have yielded positive changes, even if it's not everything they initially wanted. "I'm happy about what we've been able to do to change the funding," Trumka told TPMDC in a brief interview in the White House Rose Garden after President Obama signed the jobs bill.

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Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-NY), a swing-district Democrat who previously voted for the House health care bill, will now vote against the current bill, the Hotline reports.

Arcuri has previously indicated that he was leaning against the bill, saying two weeks ago about the Senate version: "There would have to be some dramatic changes in it for me to change my position."

House Democrats will need every vote they can, of course, in order to get to the 216 threshold. And Arcuri is now one name subtracted from their column.

What's the matter with Georgia? Two long-shot candidates in the state's governor's race were suspended as school-teachers after allegations of inappropriate conduct with female high-school students.

One of those, Republican Ray McBerry, leads a Georgia secessionist group and is hovering around 2 percent in GOP primary polls. McBerry already last weekend issued a hilarious pre-emptive denial of those charges -- as well as several others. The other, Democrat Carl Camon, is the mayor of Ray City, and polls around 2 percent in the Democratic primary.

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It's been coming for weeks. For at least the third time in the year-long fight over health care reform, abortion has become the seemingly insuperable issue standing between Democrats and their signature agenda item. And now, as we inch closer to a final vote on health care, Catholic groups are getting into the fray -- and are opposing each other on the issue of reform.

On one side, there is the Conference of Catholic Bishops, who take a conservative line on the issue. Like Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), they are adamantly opposed to the language in the Senate health care bill, and, back in November when the House passed its own legislation, the Bishops played a key role in inserting heavily restrictive abortion language at the last moment.

On the other side, however, other Catholic groups like the Catholic Hospital Association and about 60,000 nuns are chiming in--as are key pro-life Democrats who support the Senate language--and they're saying, in essence, ignore the Bishops, and pass this bill. The difference of opinion among Catholics could open up wiggle room for pro-life Dems looking for a way to support health care.

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Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) has, in recent days, said he can't vote for health care reform unless his state is reimbursed by the federal government for expanding Medicaid benefits as are other states. Today, after hearing a summary of what's in the reconciliation package, Engel tells Brian Beutler and other reporters that he could vote for the bill.

"I want to vote for health care reform," Engel wrote in an op-ed last week in the New York Daily News. "However, my vote cannot be taken for granted if my home state is getting a bad deal."

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Yesterday, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) told me and several other reporters that the long wait for CBO numbers had a lot to do with making sure the final language would survive the constraints of the budget reconciliation process--and that required tweaking some of President Obama's proposed changes to the Senate health care bill. One of the tweaks Democrats have had to make, according to lawmakers, has to do with the excise tax on high-end health care plans--the so-called "Cadillac tax."

The change is technical, but important, particularly because labor unions still don't like the Cadillac tax and don't want to see it enhanced. In the Obama proposal, the Cadillac tax was designed to impact high-end health insurance policies--$27,500 per year policies for families, and $10,200 per year policies for individuals. Those thresholds were to be indexed to the Consumer Price Index plus one percent. In order to get the CBO scoring right, Democrats had to drop the additional one percent, meaning the threshold for those insurance plans subject to the Cadillac tax will rise more slowly over time.

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