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Mixed Signals On House Whip Count

Rep. John Larson tells Bloomberg: "We have the votes to pass a robust public option." But Blue Dogs tell The Hill they don't: "'I can’t tell you we’ve whipped this, but there’s been less than 12 Blue Dogs willing to support [a robust public option],' said Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) ... Some Democrats are ready to vote against the bill for other reasons."

House cmte votes to repeal anti-trust exemption for insurers. Bloomberg: "The House Judiciary Committee yesterday voted 20-9 to approve legislation that would ban insurers from engaging in price fixing, bid-rigging and market allocation. The measure may be added to broader health-care overhaul legislation."

AMA sticks with reform effort after defeat in Senate of permanent fix to doctor payment formula. LA Times: " AMA official said the medical group was not withdrawing its support for a healthcare overhaul, a key position that has helped sustain the Obama administration's campaign."

Wonk Room's Igor Volksy accuses Republicans of hypocrisy for opposing doctor payment fix: "[Sen. Min. Leader] McConnell supported paying for the SGR [Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate] patch with deficit spending before he opposed it. Since Congress began fixing the formula in 1999, he — and the majority of the Republican party — rarely objected to borrowing 'another cent to pay for it.'"'s Tim Foley says the House bill handled this right, got no credit: "[The House bill] wipes the slate clean on the SGR, and establishes a new system based on medical inflation (a much saner system -- honestly, Medicare physician fees shouldn't be rising faster than physician fees for private insurance, and generally they haven't). The cost of that fix is about $245 billion, and it was factored into the House bill's original budget of $1 trillion. We haven't seen the details from the CBO, but presumably the so-called 'Doc Fix' for Medicare is still in there. But for stepping up and being fiscally responsible, the House bill got mercilessly pummeled throughout the summer."

Dog Bites Man Alert. Health industry lobbies a lot. USA Today: "The drug and insurance industries have dramatically amped up their efforts to lobby Congress, spending millions over a three-month period to influence legislation aimed at reshaping the nation's health care system ... The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America reported nearly $7 million in lobbying expenses from July through September ... America's Health Insurance Plans ... racked up $6.3 million in lobbying expenses this year ...The pace of spending means health care lobbying is likely to set records this year..."

Bailed Out Bank Execs Getting Pay Cut

Bloomberg: The Obama administration slammed Wall Street by ordering pay cuts of an average of 50 percent and caps on benefits for top executives at companies owing the government billions of dollars from taxpayer-funded bailouts ... The cash portion of salaries for the 25 highest-paid employees will be slashed 90 percent ... Some cash will be replaced by shares that employees will be restricted from selling immediately..."

Politico reports WH-appointed paymaster acted independently: "...Obama did not sign off on the pay master's decision. Feinberg didn’t even brief the White House on it, the official said, but he briefed Treasury officials instead ... Feinberg, a Washington attorney who was appointed to the unsalaried position as Treasury’s special master for corporate pay in June, has wide latitude to act independently of the administration..."

NYT advances Wall Street view that pay cuts are driving talent away: "...many bankers were surprised by the depth of the cuts and were already trying to identify loopholes ... Over the last year, dozens of bankers and traders have left both companies for foreign rivals, boutique finance companies and other American banks that did not face stringent compensation rules. And this month, Citigroup sold off its lucrative Phibro trading unit to untangle itself from the man to whom it owed a $100 million bonus, Andrew J. Hall."

Naked Capitalism unimpressed: "He is limited to only TARP recipients, not the beneficiaries of other forms of government largesse. And as anyone who has an operating brain cell knows, the number of firms on the dole and the degree of subsidies is much greater than the TARP."

Dean Baker slaps W. Post editorial opposing Fed audit: "...the Post confidently told readers that: 'it's uncontroversial to keep Fed decisions about setting interest rates and other traditional functions confidential.' Umm, actually no. It's uncontroversial that they should be made available to the public."

Financial Reform Bill To Pass House Cmte Today

On The Rachel Maddow Show, Rep. Barney Frank says financial reform bill will pass today, with "90 percent of what we want."

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Compromise on state rules. NYT: "...the House Financial Services Committee voted on Wednesday to give the federal government the power to block the states from regulating large national banks in some circumstances ... the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks, would be able to override the states, but only if it found that the state law 'significantly' interfered with federal regulatory policies."

AP tallies up the oversight exemptions: "Democrats have hailed the plan and said the [consumer financial protection] agency would help to reach across various businesses to stop fraud and abusive practices. That regulators didn't monitor nonbank institutions like mortgage brokers was considered a major factor in subprime lending abuses that led to the housing market crash But under pressure from industry, the Financial Services Committee has carved out numerous exemptions to the industries subject to agency oversight. Among those exempt are retailers, real estate brokers, lawyers, cable companies and accountants ... One GOP measure that could survive was Rep. John Campbell's proposal to clarify that auto dealers are exempt."

Consumer groups accuse Rep. Campbell of conflict of interest. OC Watchdog: "The consumer groups ... say that Campbell should walk away from his amendment ... because six auto dealerships pay him rent ... [Campbell says] four of the six entities that paid him rent are no longer car dealers."

House Dems Plan Additional Stimulus, Just Not A "Stimulus Package"

Speaker Pelosi announces strategy after meeting with economists. NYT: "Ms. Pelosi said Democrats would not have another big stimulus bill but instead a series of smaller ones. That reflects their sensitivity to the fact that a single bill would carry a bigger price tag and to Republicans’ criticisms that the first stimulus package has been a failure, a claim that most economists, including those at the Capitol meeting, reject."

W. Post lists possible moves: "Pelosi said the ideas under discussion include extending a number of expiring provisions from the earlier stimulus. The House has already voted to extend unemployment benefits, but the measure is hung up in the Senate. Democrats are also looking at extending health benefits for the unemployed, higher loan limits for federally backed mortgages, and a tax credit for first-time home buyers that could be offered to 'anytime homeowners,' Pelosi said ... Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) is pushing for more spending on infrastructure. Democrats are also considering new tax breaks for businesses that save or create jobs. The economists offered several other ideas, including additional aid for cash-strapped states that could be forced to cut jobs or raise taxes in the face of state budget deficits expected to total $350 billion over the next three years. They also called on lawmakers to divert unused and repaid money from the bank bailout to recapitalize community banks, reinvigorate lending to small businesses and provide additional help to homeowners facing foreclosure."

Blue Dogs wary of additional stimulus. The Hill: "Each of the economists who spoke to reporters following the session said everyone in the room had signed off on a strategy of temporarily ignoring the budget deficit for the sake of economic recovery ... But the Blue Dog leader [Rep. Baron Hill] said there is far less appetite among the group for stimulus-based deficit spending than there was in February..."

Senate Push To Finish Bulk of Climate Work By Thanksgiving

ClimateWire reports Kerry pushing for fast action, as potential Republican votes angle for changes: "[Sen.] Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) opened a hearing on allocations yesterday by warning of the fight ahead if the Senate follows the House's lead in giving away valuable pollution credits to some 20 different categories of recipients ... [Sen. Bob Corker] said he would be willing to support climate legislation if Democrats auctioned off all of the allowances and refunded all of the revenue back to taxpayers ... [Finance Committee Chair Sen. Max] Baucus said yesterday that he hopes to begin his next round of hearings on the climate bill before Thanksgiving. As for a markup, Baucus said, 'We'll see.' ... But Kerry, a senior member of the Finance Committee, signaled yesterday that Baucus could make quick work of the climate legislation ... Kerry also said he plans to meet tomorrow with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to map out a strategy for the climate legislation, including discussion of a Thanksgiving deadline for committees to complete their work..."

StreetsBlog reports conservative Republicans are now just libeling the climate bill as a $3.6 trillion gas tax." Kerry's office responded: "Gas tax? More like a $700 rebate."

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