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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) promised that his abortion amendment would be "as identical to Stupak as it can be," and one key women's rights groups says he's made good on his promise.

"As with Stupak-Pitts, this amendment would restrict abortion coverage well beyond the status quo and could have profound implications even for coverage in the private market, paid for with private funds," emails Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate of the Guttmacher Institute. "It also, like the Stupak-Pitts amendment, takes what had been even-handed language respecting and protecting the conscience of providers on both sides of the abortion divide and turns it into biased language that allows for discrimination against health care providers willing to provide or refer for abortions."

So there you have it. Now the questions is what happens if it fails somehow? Nelson has threatened to join a filibuster of the health care bill if his language isn't adopted. Will he make good on that promise? Or will a new round of negotiations begin. If Nelson defected, it could dramatically impact the course of negotiations over the public option and, indeed, imperil the legislation. We'll be keeping a close eye on this. You can read the language of the Nelson amendment below the fold.

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Several outlets are reporting, and I can confirm, that Senate Democrats are considering a Medicare expansion as one item on a menu of concessions conservative Democrats would agree to in exchange for weakening or eliminating the public option in the health care bill.

Currently, Medicare exists as a single-payer system for seniors 65 and older. According to Hill sources, the idea would be to allow people under the age of 65 to buy in to Medicare. The option would be limited to people older than a certain age, though that age--and indeed the entire proposal--has yet to be agreed upon.

If Democrats sacrifice the public option, there will likely be a long list of alternatives in its place. This buy in could be one of them, as could a separate plan to allow the federal government to negotiate premiums with insurance companies for some consumers. These are the two ideas receiving the most buzz.

We'll know more of this in a day or two, when the 10 senators negotiating a public option compromise emerge with a concrete proposal. Follow along.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked to respond to the news Sen. Max Baucus recommended his girlfriend for a U.S. attorney post.

"Senator Baucus did not give us any information about those three names," Gibbs said.

"Nobody here was involved in it," Gibbs said, adding, "I don't mean anybody besides those who know Senator Baucus, I mean nobody."

The RNC called for an investigation, but there has been relatively little reaction as Baucus talks about health care most of today on the Senate floor.

The Republican National Committee released an anti-health care reform video today that uses the brightly colored, overly complex charts Republicans have used to demonstrate how confusingly bureaucratic a new health care system would be.

As the chart surrounds him on all sides, the narrator, who has a younger John Hodgman thing going on, asks: "Dizzy yet?"

"It used to be that a simple phone call was all you needed to see your doctor. But those days are gone," he says.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is set to meet Sarah Palin tonight, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Palin is in Minnesota today for her book tour, and is scheduled to attend a private fundraiser where Bachmann will also be showing up. "I hope I can get a book and maybe get it signed," Bachmann told reporters.

Bachmann was also asked about the potential presidential candidacies of both Palin and her own governor, Tim Pawlenty -- and didn't immediately commit to either one. "I like both of them, " Bachmann said. "They're great. Of course I'm very partial toward our own governor. I think he's marvelous, but I love Gov. Palin. And I'm sure that there will be a lot more choices out there as well. So, I'll withhold judgement as to who I'll be supporting."

ACORN employees caught in those undercover videos advising a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute on how to break the law acted unprofessionally and inappropriately, but did nothing illegal, a report commissioned by ACORN and conducted by an independent investigator has found.

The report, by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, recommends nine steps for ACORN to take in order to regain public trust in the wake of the scandal, including that it return to its "core competency - community organizing and citizen engagement empowerment, with related services."

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A man who claims he witnessed a "dry run" by Muslim hijackers on a plane at Atlanta's airport last month told TPMmuckraker this morning he is standing by his story, despite several holes in the tale and the carrier's claim he was not even on the plane.

In an email account of his experience that went national on right-wing blogs last week, Tedd Petruna describes a group of 11 Muslim men "in full attire" who created a disturbance on a Nov. 17 AirTran flight on the runway at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

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This morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to make a plea for passing health care reform, comparing it to the fight for civil rights, women's suffrage and an end to slavery. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) took offense.

Here's what Reid said:

Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is this:, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said, 'Slow down, it's too early, let's wait, things aren't bad enough.' When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted they simply, slow down, there will be a better day to do that, today isn't quite right. When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats we hear today.

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