Politics Today: Senators Near Health Care Deal

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

**Senate negotiators close to a deal on health care...

**President Obama hits the road to sell health reform; will lay out list of "consumer protections"...

5058008HEALTH CARE: "An emerging consensus among a bipartisan group of senators is poised to shift the dynamic in the congressional debate over health-care reform and could lead to a final product that sheds many of the priorities that President Obama has emphasized and that have drawn GOP attacks," report the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane.

"Three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee are expected to wrap up their arduous multi-week talks in the coming days, and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he expects a panel vote before the Senate recess, which will begin Aug. 7.

"Assuming the fragile committee coalition holds, the legislation it produces would scramble the reform landscape by introducing policy ideas that have their origins in the political center. The bill is bound to disappoint liberals. But with prominent GOP backing, it also could prove more difficult for Republicans to reject out of hand -- the approach they have taken to the House bill and a second Senate version, written by the health committee."

"Democratic Senator Max Baucus, leading the talks among six Democrats and Republicans on the finance committee, said they made progress and will meet again today," add Bloomberg News' Laura Litvan and Catherine Dodge.

"'We reached an agreement on a couple of very key points,' Baucus told reporters after meeting with the other senators. The Montana lawmaker earlier said the Senate plan will likely include a provision taking away from Congress the authority to set pay rates for Medicare, the U.S. program for the elderly, and give it to a federal commission less subject to political pressure. And it would probably ban insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions."

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
One sticking point: a public option. "Liberals who see the effort to overhaul health care as a once-in-a-generation opportunity are growing anxious that a final deal -- and a Democratic president they backed -- will negotiate away their top priority: a public plan to compete with private insurers," report the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and Naftali Bendavid.

"Some Democrats are threatening to oppose any bill that excludes this option, and sympathetic outside groups are pressuring wavering lawmakers. ...

"In the Senate Finance Committee, leaders could announce a bipartisan agreement in the coming days that includes an alternative to the public plan. Key senators have agreed to rely on nonprofit cooperatives, not the government, to provide competition to private insurance companies.

"The liberal anxiety also is fueled by the White House, which has sent mixed messages. Asked Tuesday about the likelihood that the Senate Finance Committee bill will lack a vigorous public plan, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to pass judgment. 'I think the broader principle is that, do we have a mechanism that provides adequate choice and competition,' he said."

"The House legislation has divided Democrats in that chamber along similar lines and is built around a public option to be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy, an idea that has almost no chance of winning GOP votes," write The Hill's Alexander Bolton and Jeffrey Young.

"The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee this month voted along partisan lines to approve legislation with a public option at its core. Infighting among House Democrats has led to an impasse at the Energy and Commerce Committee that is expected to prevent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from meeting her deadline of completing work before the August recess."

Gallup Poll, "Benefits of Healthcare Reform a Tough Sell for Americans"

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Patrick O'Connor, "Democrats scramble for pre-recess progress"

New York Times' David Leonhardt, "Health Care Reform and the Unpopular T-Word"

Los Angeles Times' Noam N. Levey and Janet Hook, "The centrist alternative on healthcare: Cooperatives"

Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Naftali Bendavid, "Plan to Tax Insurers Stirs Interest in House"

Associated Press' David Espo and Erica Werner, "Bipartisan group eyes Medicare savings"

Las Vegas Sun's Lisa Mascaro, "Reid's secrecy on health care reform provokes frustration, admiration"

PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: President Obama hits the road today for two town meeting-style events to sell his health care plan. First, he travels to Raleigh, N.C. for a noon ET event, then he visits a Kroger Supermarket in Bristol, Va., at 4:15 p.m. ET for his second town meeting event.

A White House official tells CBS News, "the President will lay out for Americans why health insurance reform means more security and stability for them and their families. Building on the theme that he outlined at the start of last week's press conference, the President will make it clear that when he signs a reform bill into law, the discrimination, dropping, and coverage gaps that riddle today's health insurance system will be a thing of the past.

"At stops in Raleigh and Bristol he'll outline eight specific consumer protections: no discrimination for pre-existing conditions, no exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, no cost-sharing for preventive care, no dropping of coverage for serious illness, no gender discrimination, no annual or lifetime caps, extended coverage for young adults, and guaranteed insurance renewal. As the day goes on, the White House will spread the word via email and social networking sites: if you already have health insurance, reform means more security and stability."

"The president's speech in Raleigh this morning is his first visit to the state since his election victory in November, when he became the first Democrat since 1964 to win North Carolina," writes the Winston-Salem Journal's James Romoser.

"Now, as he tries to achieve an overhaul of the nation's health-care system, he needs the support of the moderate wing of his party, which has concerns about the overall cost of the plan and the wisdom of including a government-sponsored insurance option that would compete with private insurers.

"In recent weeks, North Carolina has become a battleground in the fight over health care. Interest groups are running TV commercials. Activists on both sides of the issue are organizing rallies and petition drives. And members of the state's legislative delegation are watching closely."

"When President Barack Obama comes to Raleigh today, he will visit a state heavily invested in the health-care debate and spending millions to shape its outcome," reports the Raleigh News & Observer's Barbara Barrett.

"The pharmaceutical industry, working to fight off new generic competitors and Canadian imports, employs 118,000 people in North Carolina. Medical schools churn out doctors torn between careers as specialists or taking the less lucrative but sorely needed path of primary care. And major corporations such as Lowe's Home Improvement are trying to figure out how to cover their employees' medical needs.

"In all, North Carolina companies and agencies with an interest in shaping the bills that may reform the nation's health-care system have spent $4.8 million this year in Washington lobbying -- a jump of nearly 40 percent over this time a year ago, according to an analysis by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer."

Meantime, in Bristol, Va., Mr. Obama should encounter a friendly audience.

The Roanoke Times' Sarah Bruyn Jones writes, "Kroger workers were busy Tuesday setting up a stage in the produce section near the deli, Kroger spokesman Carl York said. 'We're just thrilled,' he said, adding that it is unusual for Kroger to close its doors. Typically the store is open every day of the year but Christmas.

"A few elected officials, including the mayor of Bristol, were invited, but the majority of the crowd will be the approximately 100 employees who work at the store.

"Kroger employees are all members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which has been vocal in its support for Obama's health care reform efforts."

Associated Press' Charles Babington, "Obama facing tough choice on health care"

Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning, "Obama's doc slams health-care reform plans"

Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, "President Gets Personal At Forum on Health Care"


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Politico's Jonathan Martin, "DNC targets Republican leaders on the stimulus"


LA Times' David G. Savage and Richard Simon, "Republicans send message with opposition to Sotomayor"

Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin, "Sotomayor Moves Closer to High Court"


NY Times' Stephen Labaton, "House Panel Approves Restraints on Executive Pay"


NY Times' William Glaberson, "Obama Faces Court Test Over Detainee"

Associated Press' Derrik J. Lang, "Obama appears on comedian George Lopez's talk show"


Honolulu Advertiser's Dan Nakaso, "Hawaii officials confirm Obama's original birth certificate still exists"

LA Times' Mark Silva, "White House, Hawaii again try to deal with questions about Obama's birth"


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Politico's Charles Mahtesian and Josh Kraushaar, "Backlash: Democratic dangers mount"

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2009 NYC Mayor: NY Times' David W. Chen, "Insurgent Candidate Fights Bloomberg"

2009 NYC Mayor: Associated Press, "Colin Powell endorses NYC mayor's re-election bid"

2010 MA Governor: Boston Globe's Martin Finucane, "Baker depicts himself as turnaround artist"

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2010 CT Senate: CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "Dodd: 'Clear Conscience' As 2010 Foes Close In"

2010 CT Senate: Washington Times' S.A. Miller, "Dodd, Conrad: Mortgage discounts were 'courtesy'"

2010 IL Senate: Peoria Journal Star's Karen McDonald, "Giannoulias stresses ethics, integrity"

2010 KY Senate: Lexington Herald-Leader's Jack Brammer, "Some conservatives wary of Grayson"

2010 NC Senate: CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "McIntyre Out of North Carolina Senate Race"

2010 PA Senate: Daily Local News' Alex Rose, "Sestak won't run for 3rd term in House"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.