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Politics Today: 60 Senate Votes for Health Care?

Politics Today is's inside look at the key stories driving the day in politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

** Democrats strike a deal on health care...

** Obama looks to past Nobel Peace Prize winners for inspiration for his speech...

** Martha Coakley gets the Democratic nomination for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat...

HEALTH CARE: "Senate Democrats reached what Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called a 'broad agreement' Tuesday night that could remove a major obstacle to the massive healthcare bill," report the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and Noam N. Levey.

"Under the compromise developed by a group of conservative and liberal Democrats, the Senate legislation would no longer include a new government-run insurance program, or 'public option,' for Americans who do not get coverage through their employers.

"Instead, the government would essentially contract with a nonprofit insurer to provide a nationwide plan that would serve as the public option, according to officials briefed on the discussions. Combined with a vote earlier in the day that rejected efforts to tighten restrictions on public money for abortion, the compromise kept the Senate moving toward Reid's goal of voting on the healthcare bill before Christmas.

"Reid's office issued a statement saying he was 'confident' that he could sell the plan to the Democratic caucus. 'This has been a long journey,' he said. 'We have confronted many hurdles, and tonight I believe we have overcome yet another one.'"

"Mr. Reid's comments came a few hours after the Senate rejected a proposal to ban coverage of abortion by health plans that would insure millions of Americans under the Democrats' bill. The vote was 54 to 45," write the New York Times' Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn.

"Two Republicans, Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, joined with 50 Democrats and two independents to kill the proposal. Seven Democrats joined 38 Republicans in support of the ban."

"The announcement came after six days of negotiations among 10 Democrats -- five liberals and five moderates -- appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to work out differences between the two camps on the public option and other pressing issues," report the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery. "Appearing in the Capitol with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the leader of the liberal faction, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), representing moderates, Reid hailed the deal as a broad agreement that has the potential to 'overcome a real problem that we had' and push the measure to final Senate vote before Christmas…

"According to a Democrat briefed on the talks, the deal represents only an agreement among the 10 negotiators to send the new package to congressional budget analysts, not an agreement to support its elements. One of the negotiators, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), quickly issued a statement criticizing the deal.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
"'While I appreciate the willingness of all parties to engage in good-faith discussions, I do not support proposals that would replace the public option in the bill with a purely private approach,' he said. He added, however, that he will base his vote 'on the entirety of what is in the bill, and whether I think the bill is good for Wisconsin.'

"Democrats must also win the approval of several key lawmakers who have not been involved in the talks, including Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), the only Republican who has voted in favor of the Democratic health initiative."

"Several alternative scenarios are being sent to the Congressional Budget Office for further analysis, and Democratic leaders maintained that all could be defined as some kind of public option," adds McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman.

"Those [10] senators have centered on expanding Medicare so that people near retirement age, from 55 to 64 years old, could qualify for coverage if their employers don't offer coverage. Medicare now covers people over 65 and some with disabilities.

"In addition, negotiators have seriously discussed having the federal government oversee and perhaps negotiate details of some plans offered by private companies.

"The negotiators have also considered having a government-run plan as a backup if the new system doesn't meet key goals, such as near-universal coverage and better affordability."

USA Today's John Fritze, "Supporters add hidden nuggets to health care bills": "The health care bills moving through Congress would do a lot more than revamp the nation's $2.6 trillion health care system.

"Buried among proposed programs for the uninsured are dozens of lesser-known provisions — from work breaks for breastfeeding moms to a requirement that chain restaurants disclose how many calories are in the fries.

"Many of the ideas have failed to gain traction in the past but supporters hope to better their chances this year by hitching them to President Obama's top domestic priority, which has passed in the House of Representatives and is being debated in the Senate. 'This is the kitchen sink train leaving the station,' said Neil Trautwein of the National Retail Federation. 'Every idea, good, bad or otherwise, that has ever been out there has to find its way in.'"

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY: Today, per the Associated Press, President Obama meets with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to discuss his Obama's proposal for a jolt of federal spending aimed at reducing the nation's double-digit unemployment rate.

Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman, "Obama Pushes New Job Stimulus"

This afternoon, Mr. Obama will make an announcement regarding his economic stimulus program and community health centers. According to the White House, the president will announce "nearly $600 million in ... Recovery Act awards to support major construction and renovation projects at 85 community health centers nationwide and help networks of health centers adopt Electronic Health Records (EHR) and other Health Information Technology (HIT) systems. The awards are expected to not only create new job opportunities in construction and health care, but also help provide care for more than half a million additional patients in underserved communities."

Mr. Obama will also announce "a new demonstration initiative to support the delivery of advanced primary care to Medicare beneficiaries through community health centers."

"Together, these three initiatives – funding for construction, technology and a medical home demonstration project – won't just save more money, and create more jobs, they'll give more people the peace of mind of knowing that health care will be there for them and their families when they need it," the president will say, according to his prepared remarks. "Ultimately, that's what health reform is really about."

Meantime, reports the Washington Post's Ben Pershing, "The packed congressional schedule means action on the bulk of President Obama's job-creation proposals might be deferred to 2010, as the House and Senate race to complete a host of key bills by year's end.

"Funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the federal government's ability to borrow money, and several expiring laws and tax breaks depend on Congress completing complicated legislative maneuvers in the next three weeks. The jobs bill also hangs in the balance as leaders weigh how quickly they can deliver a measure to the White House after Obama's call Tuesday for a comprehensive package. House leaders are debating whether they can push a jobs bill through this month, while the Senate is more likely to tackle the subject in January.

"'We need to do the jobs bill right,' House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday. 'We need to do it soon, but doing it in the next 10 days is not necessarily essential if we do it . . . within the next 30 to 40 days.'"

NY Times' Jackie Calmes, "Year-End Audit Finds TARP Program Effective": "The independent panel that oversees the government's financial bailout program concluded in a year-end review that, despite flaws and lingering problems, the program 'can be credited with stopping an economic panic.'

"The Congressional Oversight Panel, which issued the report, was created in October 2008 by the same law that established the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. The panel has often been critical of the Treasury Department's management of the bailout operation, especially at its start in the Bush administration but also under the Obama administration."

NOBEL PRIZE: Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Williamson, "Nobel Peace Prize speeches are usually filled with soaring rhetoric and grand humanitarian gestures. President Barack Obama will accept his prize Thursday with a speech that aims at historical resonance but is constrained by his status as a new, wartime president.

"Administration officials say the speech, which the president is drafting himself, will address the irony of receiving a peace prize a week after ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan, and the need for continued leadership on nuclear disarmament.

"It will test Mr. Obama's ability to articulate a foreign-policy vision based on moral leadership while pursuing two wars, and his skill at persuading the world that he will uphold U.S. leadership on human rights amid missed opportunities to press China, Darfur and Iran. It will also test his humility -- an element speechwriters across the political spectrum say is important for countering critics who say the prize is based more on his rock-star persona than his achievements."

"Two days after he delivered his Afghanistan address last week at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Obama sat down in the Oval Office with two speech writers, Ben Rhodes and Jon Favreau, and began to offer an outline for what he would like to say in Oslo," reports the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny.

"Mr. Obama is the third sitting American president to be awarded the peace prize. A student of history, he read the lecture of Theodore Roosevelt, who won the award in 1906 for his role in bringing an end to the war between Russia and Japan. He also studied the words of Woodrow Wilson, who sent a telegram to the committee — he was ill and could not attend a ceremony — for his 1919 award in recognition of his 14-point peace program for ending World War I.

"With so few former presidents to seek guidance from, aides said, Mr. Obama also spent time looking back at the speech of George C. Marshall, who was awarded the prize in 1953 for helping to rebuild the post-World War II world through the plan of economic aid that bears his name. Mr. Obama also was intrigued by the lectures of more recent honorees, aides said, including Mr. Mandela in 1993 and Dr. King in 1964."

REPLACING TED KENNEDY: "Attorney General Martha Coakley took a step toward history last night, crushing U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in a landslide victory in the Democratic primary to succeed the iconic late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy," report the Boston Herald's Dave Wedge and Hillary Chabot.

"Coakley was the first to jump into the three-month sprint to replace Kennedy in the days after his death, and the bold strategy paid off in the form of a 19-point victory over Capuano. Coakley, vying to be the first female senator from Massachusetts, hauled in 47 percent of the vote to Capuano's 28 percent. City Year founder Alan Khazei netted 13 percent while Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca got 12.

"Coakley's win sets up a Jan. 19 clash with state Sen. Scott Brown, who trounced Duxbury attorney Jack E. Robinson in the GOP primary, 89 percent to 11 percent."

The Globe's Brian C. Mooney recaps Coakley's road to her primary victory: "She won by huge margins across vast swaths of the state yesterday.

"Coakley played it safe from start to finish, and her candidacy seemed to be in jeopardy only once and then briefly. Four weeks ago she said she would vote against a health care bill in Congress if it placed restrictions on abortions. Her chief opponent, US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who two days earlier had voted against the abortion amendment but for the final version of a House bill that included it, pounced and attacked her stand. But less than 24 hours later, he, too, said he would vote against a health care overhaul if the bill that ultimately combines House and Senate versions emerges with the abortion restrictions.

"Capuano was then forced to explain the inside baseball of congressional lawmaking as he attempted to draw a distinction with Coakley, who emerged from the scrape as the leading defender of the reproductive rights of women. Cultivating support among women was a Coakley priority from day one.

"It was one of several head-scratching moments in a fitful Capuano campaign that often seemed to be living by its wits from day to day without a coherent, overarching strategy."

Coakley's Republican challenger state Sen. Scott Brown "faces significant hurdles between now and the Jan. 19 final election: He is less well-known than Coakley, who is the state's attorney general; he is a Republican in an overwhelmingly liberal state; and the six weeks until the election include the Christmas and New Year's season, when it will be difficult to get voters' attention," writes the Boston Globe's Michael Levenson.

"Just 11 percent of the state's registered voters are Republicans. But Democrats are taking nothing for granted.

"'He's an attractive, articulate, moderate Republican who could tap into some of the unrest among voters,' said Philip W. Johnston, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party. 'It would be a terrible mistake for Democrats to assume that this election is in the bag on Jan. 19. These are not normal times. There are treacherous winds blowing, and Democratic candidates have to be aware of that.'"

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
CLIMATE CHANGE: New York Times' John M. Broder, "If negotiators reach an accord at the climate talks in Copenhagen it will entail profound shifts in energy production, dislocations in how and where people live, sweeping changes in agriculture and forestry and the creation of complex new markets in global warming pollution credits.

"So what is all this going to cost?

"The short answer is trillions of dollars over the next few decades. It is a significant sum but a relatively small fraction of the world's total economic output. In energy infrastructure alone, the transformational ambitions that delegates to the United Nations climate change conference are expected to set in the coming days will cost more than $10 trillion in additional investment from 2010 to 2030, according to a new estimate from the International Energy Agency...

"Whatever global warming's effects — and most scientific projections are less dire — there are also varying estimates of the economic costs of failing to act to address the problem soon, some of them very high."

Former Gov. Sarah Palin, in a Washington Post op-ed, writes that President Obama should cancel his planned visit to the Copenhagen talks next week, arguing that the brewing scandal over "Climate-gate" " exposes a highly politicized scientific circle -- the same circle whose work underlies efforts at the Copenhagen climate change conference."

"The e-mails reveal that leading climate 'experts' deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. What's more, the documents show that there was no real consensus even within the CRU crowd. Some scientists had strong doubts about the accuracy of estimates of temperatures from centuries ago, estimates used to back claims that more recent temperatures are rising at an alarming rate.

"This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen. I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics...

"Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference. The president should boycott Copenhagen."


NY Times' Eric Schmitt, "Two Top Aides Show Unity on Afghan Strategy"

USA Today's Jim Michaels, "McChrystal: July '11 not a deadline"

NY Times' Donald G. McNeil Jr., "Obama Is Criticized on AIDS Program"

Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan and Spencer S. Hsu, "U.S. to unveil biological threat strategy"

The State's Gina Smith, "Sanford talks with Walters about her cheating husband", "Huck on the Daily Show"

Wall Street Journal's Mike Esterl, "Removal of Sanford a Tall Order"

Beaufort Gazette's Kate Cerve, "Former Pa. senator campaigns for Barrett in Bluffton"

Associated Press' Frederic J. Frommer, "House panel considers college football playoffs"

McClatchy Newspapers' Tish Wells, "At holiday time, even the CIA wants to show its festive spirit"

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