TPM News

Senate Democrats are worried they may be delayed debating the merged health care bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent to the Congressional Budget Office Monday while they wait for the CBO to score the measure.

Roll Call is reporting (sub. req.) that senators are concerned the score may not be available for another week and a half, which would postpone the debate beginning late next week.

As Brian detailed yesterday, there are plenty of unanswered questions about the bill.

TPMDC interviewed former CBO chief Doug Holtz-Eakin, who served as an economic adviser to the McCain campaign last year.

"It's so unclear to me what actually is being proposed," he told us, adding he was surprised any senators have been able to take sides since the details are scarce. "There are a million questions."

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Key public option supporters in the Senate Democratic Caucus pushed back today on different objections raised by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to the idea of including a public option in health care reform.

"I think one of the problems the leader is working through...is that there have been a number of theories about what a public option is that have been kicked around," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in response to a question from TPMDC. "On the Senate side, in the [HELP] Committee, we chose to...make sure that these public options were self sustaining."

Lieberman has suggested both that the public option would be a drain on taxpayers, and that it would drive up private insurance premiums, in contrast to the findings of most experts.

"I think there's a bit of a function of trying to make sure that everybody's clear exactly what it is that we're proposing," Whitehouse said. "I think once the actual text of the bill is out and it's clear that the HELP language is what was adopted. I think we'll be successfully able to make the case to Senator Lieberman that there is not a subsidy here and it is not an entitlement."

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) added his own two cents as well.

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Rumors have been swirling all day, and now ABC is reporting that House leaders will unveil their health care bill at a morning press conference tomorrow.

Of the specifics that were still up in the air, the bill reportedly: will not include a robust public option, as recent signs have been indicating; will cost about $900 billion--in line with President Obama's mark; will cover several million more people than the Senate Finance Committee's bill will; and will be paid for, in large part, with a 5.4 percent surtax on high income families and individuals.

Stay tuned for more details as they emerge.

[CORRECTION: We have been told that Joe's program here was not properly termed a public option, but was two different concepts -- an expansion of government-run health care programs for the young, extending it up to age 25, and the creation of private health care exchanges in order to create a competitive, organized marketplace. So to be blunt, we bungled this one. TPM regrets the error.]

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) seems to have seriously changed his position on a public health insurance program -- from supporting it years ago, to staunchly opposing it now.

Back when Lieberman was a full-fledged Democrat and sought the party's nomination for President, he said this at a debate in South Carolina on January 29, 2004:

"And one of the things we will do when we're one nation is to end the moral outrage of 44 million people without health insurance in the richest country in the world, nine million children whose parents can't take them to the doctor when they get sick 'cause they can't pay the bill. I'm gonna do that, and also help the millions who have insurance that can't pay it, by creating national health insurance pools like the ones members of Congress get our insurance from.

"Promises: When you're born, child in America, you get a membership card, and MediKids covers your insurance. Two, if you lose your job, you will not lose your health insurance. Three, underemployed, self-employed, small business, you can buy into this plan, it'll cost you a lot less, and incidentally, you'll get drug benefits with it. That's the kind of centrist leadership that produces results, and that's the kind of president America needs and I'll be."


(Transcript via Nexis)

Back then, Joe Lieberman was presenting the public option as a sensible, centrist plan for the country. But now he's promising to filibuster a Democratic proposal to establish one. So what changed?

We've placed a call with Lieberman's office, but they have not yet gotten back to us.

Hat tip Alaska Dispatch...

Did U.S. prosecutors pressure police to end a child-sex-crimes investigation in order not to endanger the federal probe of corruption in Alaska politics, then withhold evidence about the episode? That's what court documents filed on behalf of a former state lawmaker convicted in the investigation are charging.

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Bill Allen, the former chief of an Alaska oil services company who became the key government witness in the Ted Stevens trial last year, was sentenced to three years in prison today for his role in the wide-ranging public corruption scandal in the state.

Allen was also fined $750,000.

The Anchorage Daily News reports from the courtroom:

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Ned Lamont, the man who made Joe Lieberman an Independent, said today that Democrats in Connecticut are fuming about Lieberman's public option posturing in the same way they were about the Iraq war back in 2006. That was the year Lamont soundly defeated Lieberman for the Democratic senate nomination, only to lose to him when Lieberman reentered the race as an Independent.

"National Democrats said [our race] was all about the war in Iraq," Lamont told TPMDC this morning. "They said that except for that, Joe was a good Democrat."

But with the health care vote and other matters, Lamont said, Lieberman has "not been working hard with Democrats to get universal health care as he promised. He's been sort of obstructionist."

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney may have left office overwhelmingly unpopular with the country at large, but he's headed back on the campaign trail -- to endorse Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in her campaign for governor, challenging incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary.

Cheney is scheduled to attend a Hutchison fundraiser on November 17, an environment of Texas Republicans where he's probably still more popular than not.

In terms of endorsements, each candidate has a big GOP name in their corner. Cheney is for Hutchison, while Perry has previously been endorsed by Sarah Palin.

TPMLivewire