TPM News

Yesterday's events have given health care new momentum, but advocates are a long way from popping champagne.

There remain unanswered questions about how the proposed Senate bill and public option opt-out will be structured, along with questions about its final cost and how the government will pay for it.

A Democratic aide told TPMDC today the House is aiming to have its bill on the floor in early November with a vote by Nov. 11, Veterans' Day.

The Senate has several stages ahead - a CBO score for the merged bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced yesterday and then an agreement for what amendments will be allowed. It will be on the floor for debate in the next two weeks.

Once each bill passes its chamber, private negotiations will produce a conference report that will get another House and Senate vote.

Translation: there may be snow on the ground in D.C. before anything finally heads to President Obama's desk.

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Thousands of protesters have gathered outside a banking conference in Chicago today -- the final day of a three-day rally for financial reform -- to call for an end to lobbying against proposed financial regulation by banks that pocketed taxpayer bailouts last year.

"We thought it was time to send them a message that they're bankrupting America," Jerry Morrison, executive director of the Illinois state council of the SEIU, told me in a phone interview this morning, with a clamoring protest audible in the background. "We gave them money, and it's time they gave it back."

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The Associated Press reports that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) spoke about the public option today, saying "We don't need to go there," but wouldn't say if she'd vote to block the health care reform bill from the Senate floor.

Although Lincoln has repeatedly voiced opposition to the public option, she hasn't committed to voting against cloture. The bill will likely need all 60 members of the Democratic caucus to break a Republican filibuster.

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Senate Majority Leader's deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), says his boss has been holding one-on-one meetings with centrists in order to ensure a 60 vote majority for the health care reform package he announced yesterday.

The Hill reports:

"Harry has been literally sitting down face to face with senator after senator, working through these differences," [Durbin] said.

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Washington lobbyist Robert Cabelly was charged today with a range of violations involving work he allegedly did for the government of Sudan and that country's oil industry, as well as lying about and trying to hide the work.

Cabelly, who worked for the State Department on Africa issues during the Reagan, first Bush, and Clinton administrations, is the principal of DC consulting firm C/R International LLC.

The Justice Department press release outlines the charges in the indictment:

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told reporters today that he would in fact filibuster any health care bill he doesn't agree with--and right now, he doesn't agree with the public option proposal making its way through the Senate.

"I told Senator Reid that I'm strongly inclined--i haven't totally decided, but I'm strongly inclined--to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don't support the bill that he's bringing together because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill."

There are two procedural issues at play here. Most people think of a filibuster as a minority blocking passage of a bill that's already been debated ad nauseum on the Senate floor. That's the most standard filibuster. But on major legislation, it's become more common for the minority--in this case the Republicans--to object to the majority getting a chance to debate legislation in the first place. If any one of them objects to the so-called motion to proceed, it will take 60 votes just to start the amendment and debate process. That's a less-discussed filibuster, but it's quite plausible that this health care bill will have to contend with it.

Lieberman is saying that he's pretty much OK with letting senators offer amendments--try to change the legislation, move it in any direction they deem necessary. But when that process is all over, and Harry Reid wants to hold an up or down vote on the final product, Lieberman's saying he'll join that filibuster, if he's not happy with the finished product. Point blank.

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We now know that the Senate is making an end run for a public option that gives states a chance to opt out. We also know that Majority Leader Harry Reid is still a handful of votes shy of the 60 he will likely need to pass the overall bill, if it contains the opt out plan.

But how exactly does the opt out work? Senate leaders are mum about the policy details, as they await the CBO to report back a cost estimate. But, after conversations with experts and lawmakers over the past several days, we can take a look at some of the key variables, about which we'll have more information in the coming days.

Yesterday, Reid suggested--though without elaborating, and with substantial lack of clarity--that states will be allowed to opt out starting in 2014.

At a news conference, a reporter asked Reid, "Can states opt out immediately or is there a period of time where they have to," participate in the public plan? He responded, but his answer may have obscured more than it elucidated. "They'll have until 2014," Reid said.

Reid's staff was not forthcoming with clarification, but there are two possible interpretations to this answer.

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Rep. Alan Grayson's (D-FL) office is making clear that when he referred to a female lobbyist a "K Street whore" during a radio interview, he was only referring to her professional career, not her personal life.

CBS News reports that Grayson spokesman Todd Jurkowski told them:

"Let's be clear about the context," he said. "The attack was on her professional career, not her personal life."

"She attacked the Congressman and his efforts to promote a Republican bill to audit the Federal Reserve," Jurkowski said. "She actually questioned his understanding of the difference between fiscal and monetary policy. She had the audacity to attack a Congressman who used to be an economist. She's a career lobbyist who used to work for Enron and advocates for whatever she gets paid to promote."