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Negotiators on the payroll tax cut package are mulling a range of cuts to Medicare providers and some reductions to Affordable Care Act spending to override the reimbursement cuts to Medicare doctors set to take effect March 1.

The deal isn't finalized yet but negotiators struck an accord on the broad parameters Tuesday night. The following are the proposed health care cuts in the mix, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

--Cuts to the Affordable Care Act's prevention fund totaling up to $5 billion

--Cuts to Medicare bad debt payments for hospitals and some nursing homes

--Cuts in Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals with a high percentage of low-income patients

--Coding changes to Medicare reimbursements for clinical laboratories and home health services

The policies have all been floated in earlier deficit-reduction efforts, although House Dems aren't happy about the cuts to the health law.

 

A massive fire in a prison in Honduras killed at least 300 prisoners on Wednesday, the BBC reports. Most of the victims were burned or suffocated in their cells, according to the report. Fifty-six of the 853 prisoners are still missing and presumed dead. Pictured above are inmates who suffered injuries during the fire.

Photo credit:  EFE/Gustavo Amador

The State Department said on Wednesday that Russia and Iran continue to provide arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We do not believe that Russian shipments of weapons to Syria are in the interests of Russia or Syria," said Tom Countryman, the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, Foreign Policy reports.

Russia last month -- along with China -- vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to force Assad to step aside.

Here are ten things you need to know today.

  • Santorum's ahead in Ohio: A new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday morning has Rick Santorum leading among likely Republican voters in Ohio 36% to Mitt Romney's 29%. Newt Gingrich takes 20% and Ron Paul 9%. Both Romney and Santorum lose in match-ups with Obama, even when Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is on the ticket. Sen. Sherrod Brown also leads challenger Josh Mandel 48%-35%.
  • Pro-Romney super PAC finally attacks Santorum: Restore Our Future is going up with a new ad in Arizona, Ohio, and Michigan, which is symbolically important because it's Romney's other home state and appears very much in play. Called "Votes," the ad attacks Santorum for his votes in the Senate, including raising the debt limit and a bill "to let convicted felons vote."
  • Read More →

According to The Hill, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told his GOP members Wednesday that he will delay a House vote on his transportation and infrastructure bill that was originally slated for this week.

Keith Laing and Ian Swanson report:

"Given the volume of amendments and the need for a full, fair, open and transparent process, we may not finish energy/infrastructure this week," Boehner told his conference, according to a source in the room. "If we need more time to debate and consider amendments, that's perfectly fine with me. It's more important that we do it right than that we do it fast." 

The GOP bill would pay for road and transit projects over the next five years and reauthorize the collection of the federal gas tax. It also authorizes expanded domestic oil and gas drilling, and projects revenue would be used to pay for some of the projects.  

Boehner has reportedly had trouble gathering the votes for the measure, which has been criticized by Republicans as a spending bill and by Democrats as a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry.

The FCC is planning to bar LightSquared, which offers a national high-speed wireless network, because in some cases interferes with personal navigation and GPS systems, reports the AP:

The Federal Communications Commission said it will seek public comment as early as Tuesday on revoking LightSquared's permit after a federal agency that coordinates wireless signals, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, concluded that there's no way to mitigate potential interference.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Wednesday said he will step down on June 30, the end of his five-year term. 

"I'm honored to have led such a world class institution with so many talented and exceptional people," he said in a statement, Reuters reports

Multi-millionaire Santorum backer Foster Friess told ABC he will be there for Rick Santorum when he needs him, all the way to the convention. He said that since the Senator's triple win last week, he has raised enough money that he isn't needed at the moment. But he said he would be there to help in the future if needed. 

“There’s no sense in committing a lot of money if it’s not needed,” said Friess. “If money is needed I want to be helpful. That’s what I’ll say, but I won’t say to what extent.” He wouldn't say if he would give at the level that Sheldon Adelson gave to Newt Gingrich, which topped $10 million. 

 

President Obama visits Wisconsin today, as part of his tour of recent public appearances to promote his economic plans. And none other than Governor Scott Walker, a national conservative star, is scheduled to meet Obama at the Milwaukee airport, and also attend the President's remarks at the factory of a local company, Master Lock.

Obama name-dropped Master Lock in his State of the Union address in January, as an example of jobs coming back to America -- and unionized jobs, at that.

Read More →

The new Quinnipiac poll of Ohio shows Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown with a big lead over his Republican challenger, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, though Mandel could have some room to grow — if voters find out that he exists.

The numbers: Brown 48%, Mandel 35%. The survey of registered voters was conducted from February 7-12, and has a ±2.6% margin of error. In the previous Quinnipiac poll from mid-January, Brown led by a similar margin of 47%-32%.

In the new poll, Brown has an approval rating of 47%, to 34% disapproval. Mandel is currently an unknown, with a personal favorable rating of 16%, to 12% unfavorable, and an overwhelming 71% who have no opinion.

The TPM Poll Average currently gives Brown a lead of 46.3%-35.9%.

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