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Insurance Lobby Misfires Before Finance Vote

Sen. Baucus tells USA Today he has a majority for today's health care cmte vote, but it is still unknown if Sen. Snowe will provide a GOP vote.

Fellow Republicans may block Snowe from top Commerce cmte spot if she backs bill. The Hill: "Republican sources could not recall an instance in the last two decades when Republican senators voted to upset the seniority system."

Opt-in/Opt-out public option compromises vying for Reid's attention as he prepares final legislation for Senate floor. W. Post: "...Reid has told colleagues he is reluctant to produce a measure that proves too divisive within his caucus. Regarding a [public option] he has said he wants proof that a provision would attract broad support within the party before it is included. Otherwise, senators would be free to offer changes as amendments on the Senate floor. One proposal attracting considerable attention originated with Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and would allow states to decide whether to create their own insurance plans or join forces to provide coverage in collaboration with neighboring states. Other Democrats want to take the state-based approach a step further, creating a national public plan that states could join. Carper, a moderate Democrat, said he is not sure he is prepared to go that far. 'I'm just chewing on that one,' he said."

Insurance lobby threat of higher premiums backfires, makes case for public option. HuffPost's Sam Stein: "'...the health insurance lobby fired the most important salvo in weeks for the option,' said [Rep. Anthony] Weiner. 'Because they have said clear as day... they'll raise rates 111%.' ...champions of the public option essentially make the case that the provision is necessary because private insurers won't simply bring costs down on their own. The report commissioned by [the insurance lobby] and put together by PricewaterhouseCoopers hints as much -- making the case that the finance committee's bill can't and won't reduce long term costs because it does not require enough young, healthy consumers to buy insurance."

Sen. Rockefeller adds, quoted by Politico: "“The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst ... Their recent statements only further highlight that our focus here in Congress must be on the inclusion of a public health insurance option in the marketplace to protect families and put more money back in their wallets by creating greater competition and driving down costs.”

The Treatment's Jonathan Cohn exposes the report's sloppy methodology: "Plenty of experts, including the CBO, don't think health care providers will simply charge private insurers more to make up for declining revenue from Medicare. The experts could all be wrong, but PriceWaterhouseCoopers doesn't even acknowledge this belief let alone explain why it might be wrong."

Ezra Klein on what the reports says about the insurance lobby: "...the insurance industry is getting scared. After many months of quiet constructiveness, they're launching a broadside on the week of the Senate Finance Committee's vote. The White House, which had a pleasant meeting with the industry's leadership last week, was shocked by the report, and so too was the Senate Finance Committee. The era of cooperation seems to be over, and they weren't given much advance warning. But the report might have another impact, too: The evident anger and fear of the insurance industry might do a bit to reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all."

Other health industry groups still on board. Bloomberg: "Doctors, medical-device makers and one of two hospital groups still voiced support for overhaul efforts after the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans released its study Oct. 11" The Hill adds: "Powerful health industry groups that have held back in their criticisms of specific reform proposals will soon have to choose whether to endorse, or formally oppose [the overall bill.]"

NYT and Politico explore House-Senate divisions on paying for reform, taxing high-end insurance plans, windfall profits and/or wealthiest households.

Enviros Applaud Kerry-Graham Prelim Climate Compromise

In Grist, NRDC's Dan Lashof praises outlines of climate deal laid out by Sens. John Kerry and Lindsey Graham: "Elements of this package make me uncomfortable, and the details will certainly matter, but most of this makes sense and there is no time left for wishful thinking about a perfect bill that will never come."

The Dernogalizer also is willing to accept the proposed compromises on nuclear, coal and drilling: "More provisions for streamlining nuclear? Go ahead, have a field day ... The plants cost over $10 billion dollars these days when they’re projected to cost half. You can’t get around that ... Money for clean coal? Well that's nothing new from the House bill ... Is it a waste of money? Yep. Do I think it’s okay for us to bribe some Senators with money for technology that will not come to fruition in order to get them to agree to regulate the emissions of the coal industry? Yeah, I do ... Offshore oil drilling? Oh no! Except we already know that even if we drilled for more oil offshore, we wouldn’t get any for 10-15 years. Even when we did, it would be a very minimal amount each day. Am I willing to trade away the burning of a little bit of oil a decade from now so that we can reduce oil consumption by millions of barrels of oil a day sooner and invest in a new transportation system with plug-in and electric vehicles? Yeah, I am."

Grist's David Roberts now has "Seven reasons for optimism: "Key Republican support is already in place ... Health care reform might just work out after all. ... The public wants this bill ... International pressure is becoming intense ... The administration is engaged ... Greens are getting their act together at last ... The business community is divided"

The Vine's Brad Plumer offers some skepticism: "'s also true that we saw similar GOP overtures early on in the health care debate. Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi, and Orrin Hatch all claimed to be amenable to a bipartisan effort, and so Max Baucus bent and arced every which way trying to accommodate their demands. But, as the process trudged along, no amount of compromising would satisfy Grassley or Enzi, and virtually every Republican came out against health care reform ... we'll have to see, in the coming months, how committed Graham actually is."

GOP Sen. Murkowski sends mixed signals. EnviroKnow: "She penned an Op-Ed in Sunday’s Anchorage Daily News arguing that Congress is better suited than the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. She then goes on to explain why Congress is 'a long ways from completing legislation that can deliver meaningful greenhouse gas reductions without damaging the economy.' Her conclusion, of course, is that Congress should call a 'time-out' on the EPA’s imminent regulations to give recalcitrant members of Congress like herself more time to twiddle their thumbs."

Sen. Boxer says even without final Senate bill, Obama has enough with which to bargain hard in Copenhagen: "The Obama administration's negotiators should be able to adopt firm greenhouse gas reduction targets during the meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the basis of what has already been accomplished, Boxer said ... As for timing ... Boxer is waiting on an U.S. EPA analysis of the Senate cap-and-trade bill, and an EPW Committee markup is not expected until next month. 'Of course the [UN] secretary-general wanted to know when and how, and I gave him my best answer that I believe we will get this bill out of my committee soon, and certainly before Copenhagen,' Boxer said. 'We're hoping to maybe even have it on the floor, but that's something that the Majority Leader [Harry] Reid will discuss and decide.'"

Mother Jones' finds the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is seriously inflating its membership numbers as EnviroKnow updates on the slow bleed of businesses leaving the Chamber because of its right-wing climate position.

Breakfast Sides

Politico profiles Sens. Dodd and Shelby as the two prepare to deal on financial reform.

NYT updates the health of major banks one year after the bailout: "...their vast problems seem to be easing: a seven-month rally in financial stocks has driven the shares of Citigroup and other troubled behemoths up sharply. And the economy has shown modest improvement, slowing losses that only recently threatened the survival of some big banks. As banks prepare to reveal this week how they performed in the third quarter, earnings are still expected to be down sharply, by about 30 percent from the previous year. And about 40 percent of lenders could post a quarterly loss, according to a recent report from Sandler O’Neill & Partners ... Bank of America and Citigroup, which each accepted $45 billion of taxpayer money, are also likely to benefit from a strong quarter from their investment bank, though it may not be enough to offset the enormous losses in their credit card and consumer lending businesses. That could foil the efforts of both to repay the government quickly, as most of their peers have already done."

WSJ reports WH postponing efforts to tax overseas profits: "The Obama administration has shelved a plan to raise more than $200 billion in new taxes on multinational companies following a blitz of complaints from businesses. A contingent of Silicon Valley chief executives, for example, traveled to Washington in late September to speak out against the proposal to change how the federal government taxes overseas profits. They came away from meetings with key congressmen relieved. Obama aides say the administration has set the idea aside for now, but may return to it as part of a broader tax overhaul sometime next year."

Obama econ adviser Larry Summers fiercely defends stimulus to House Min. Leader Boehner, reports W. Post: "We have walked a substantial distance back from the economic abyss and are on the path toward economic recovery."

W. Post also notes stern enforcement of rules by Obama administration regulators: "Top appointees at the Food and Drug Administration, for example, have cracked down on dietary supplements with 'steroid-like' substances that for years had been sold in gyms and health-food stores. In a move designed as much for symbolism as effect, the new chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission dispatched all 100 agency inspectors across the country last month to enforce a law that requires special drains on swimming pools to prevent children from entrapment. The agency shut down more than 200 pools. The new regulators display a passion for rules and a belief that government must protect the public from dangers lurking at home and on the job -- one more way the new White House is reworking the relationship between government and business."

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