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Building The New Economy Conference Today

LIve audio stream and Twittering of the Building The New Economy conference, featuring, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Gov. Ed Rendell, AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka and United Steelworkers' Leo Gerard on main conference page.

Rachel Maddow looks at our dilapidated infrastructure after Bay Bridge shutdown.

Strongest Public Option Short of 218 House Majority

House health care bill unveiled today. Cuts deficit, but includes weaker version of public option. W. Post: "The House legislation aims to provide health insurance of one form or another to almost all Americans at an expected cost just below $900 billion over 10 years, without increasing the federal budget deficit for at least 20 years, House Democrats said ... Lacking the votes to pass it, House leaders abandoned an effort to include a public option backed by liberals that would establish reimbursement rates to providers based on Medicare ... Instead, Pelosi is expected to offer a more moderate alternative in which rates would be negotiated between providers and federal health officials, similar to the way in which private insurance operates."

NYT reports the bill will include a "millionaires' tax": "The cost would be offset by new taxes and by cutbacks in Medicare, so the bill would not increase the federal budget deficit in the next 10 years or in the decade after that. The new bill, like an earlier version, retains a surtax on high-income people, but increases the thresholds. The tax would hit married couples with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $1 million a year and individuals over $500,000 — just three-tenths of 1 percent of all households, Democrats said. Ms. Pelosi can describe the proposal as a 'millionaires’ tax.'"

LA Times notes it will cover more people than the Baucus bill: "...after 10 years, it will boost those covered by about 35 million people, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That is substantially more than the more conservative bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee this month, which would have dropped the number of uninsured by 29 million."

Politico questions if CBO will say the second decade is deficit neutral: "The CBO analysis will show that the bill runs surpluses in the first five years and deficits in the second, making it deficit neutral during the first decade. BUT those late decade deficits were raising questions about whether the CBO will be able to declare the second 10 years deficit neutral."

HCAN flags Raleigh News & Observer report on Blue Cross and Blue Shield raising premiums while complaining about unfair competition from public option: "many customers of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina are ticked off at the mail they've received recently from the state's largest insurer. First, they learned their rates will rise by an average of 11 percent next year. Next, they opened a slick flier from the insurer urging them to send an enclosed pre-printed, postage-paid note to Sen. Kay Hagan denouncing what the company says is unfair competition that would be imposed by a government-backed insurance plan."

Republican senators sad business lobbies don't hate reform as much as they do. The Hill: "[Sen. Kyl] said some industries have sat on the sidelines and 'some folks that have made some kind of a deal and may live to regret it.'"

FireDogLake challenges Sen. Blanche Lincoln: "If her opposition to a government run insurance program is truly philosophical and not just politically convenient, I look forward to all those Committee hearings on how the government can’t continue to insure Big Ag’s profits."

Reid's bill still needs CBO scoring on new insurance tax, "free rider" thresholds. CQ:

The bill makes an important change to a significant revenue-raiser borrowed from the Finance Committee bill (S 1796) — an excise tax on high-cost insurance plans. It was originally written as a 40 percent tax on plans costing $21,000 per year for a family, indexed to inflation plus 1 percent. Reid, D-Nev., has raised that figure to $23,000, with the same growth rate of inflation plus 1 percent. The result will be less revenue raised by the tax, which will likely have to be made up elsewhere.

Reid’s bill has been sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to be scored, but with several policy options that are still being negotiated.

One option under consideration is a fine on employers whose workers get government subsidies to buy health insurance instead of getting coverage through the workplace ... The fine would be $750 for every worker. For a 100-person company, if some workers got the subsidized coverage, the employer could pay $75,000 in fines. In the original Finance bill, the penalty was either $400 per employee or the average cost of the subsidies that were going to workers in the company, whichever was smaller. Companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt in the Finance bill...

...A lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Chuck Loveless, said union groups would keep pushing Reid to get rid of the tax on high-cost insurance plans, something they argue will be passed on to workers through higher premiums. “Our goal right now is to eliminate the excise tax from the bill,” Loveless said. “It’s still not adequate from our point of view, but it is an improvement,” he said of the changes. “We commend the leader for the effort he has made.”

Reid’s legislation probably will not be unveiled until the CBO scoring is complete. “That could take four days, and it could take two weeks,” Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Charles E. Schumer of New York said Wednesday. “No one knows.”

House Hearings Today On Too-Big-To-Fail Bill

AFL-CIO to oppose House bill, reports's Mike Elk. "In an advance copy of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's prepared [House] testimony that I obtained, Trumka will tesify that: 'The discussion draft would appear to give power to the Federal Reserve to preempt a wide range of rules regulating the capital markets - power which could be used to gut investor and consumer protections ... We are also deeply troubled by provision in the discussion that would allow the Federal Reserve to use taxpayer funds to rescue failing banks, and then bill other non-failing banks for the costs.'"

New Deal 2.0's Joshua Rosner argues the bill not aggressive in preventing meltdowns: "The House draft bill written by Rep. Barney Frank (D - MA) - along with several former Fed attorneys and Treasury staff and consultants — ignores fundamental reality: You don’t employ a bomb squad to sit around and wait for a bomb to explode, you engage them to dismantle it as soon as they find one ... An honest bill would recognize that any institution that is 'Too Big to Fail' should be given economic ‘incentives’ (through prohibitively high capital levels and insurance assessments) to shrink or sell off business units."

Naked Capitalism not pleased: "Government Is Trying to Make Bailouts for the Giant Banks PERMANENT"

CQ reports Rep. Frank is putting some limits on Fed power, but not necessarily enough to satisfy critics: "The legislation ... would create a Financial Services Oversight Council to determine which firms could pose a threat to the economy, rather than leaving the decision entirely up to the Fed ... The central bank would still wield plenty of authority under the legislation. The council would hold the broad power of designating threats, but the Fed would have the ability to take drastic action against firms it deems systemically risky and critically undercapitalized. Among the Fed’s options would be firing and replacing boards of directors and senior executives and forcing the divestiture of financial institutions. The central bank also would be able to approve or deny mergers and acquisitions by identified institutions and would have the power to restrict their growth."

Rep. Maloney backing off of her weakening amendment, HuffPost's Shahien Nasiripour reports: "Rep. Carolyn Maloney, of New York, originally proposed that firms with market capitalization less than $75 million be exempt from a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act ... [now she is[ instead [calling] for a study of the costs of complying with the already-existing provision, and delaying its planned implementation by a year."

HuffPost's Tom Edsall reports on new poll showing great concern that policies favor Wall Street: "A paltry 13 percent of those interviewed for the September 2009 survey said that the average Joe and Jill have been 'helped a lot or a fair amount' -- compared to 65 percent who think regular folks have gotten little or no assistance from the government. Fully 54 percent of respondents said Wall Street investment companies have been helped - and nearly two-thirds said the large banks have been taken care of."

Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo reports former Citi CEO now wants Glass-Steagall back: "[John] Reed penned a letter to the New York Times saying that things were better the old way."

"Mini-Stimulus" Moves

The Hill reports Congress plans to push more stimulus measures: "Democrats have turned the latest stopgap spending measure to keep the federal government running into a mini-stimulus of sorts ... One provision extends higher limits for federally backed home loans that were increased as part of the stimulus and are set to expire at the end of the year. The provision allows Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages to be as large as $729,750 after December. The loan limits were scheduled to go down to their pre-stimulus levels of $625,500 in January. Another provision provides about $200,000 for public housing vouchers for approximately 10,000 families ... The continuing resolution also provides approximately $17.2 million to guarantee Small Business Association (SBA) loans for firms having trouble getting credit from private lenders."

CQ reports Senate reached a deal on extending the homebuyer tax credit, "but it was unclear Wednesday whether the measure would be attached to an unemployment benefits extension on the Senate floor. The deal, a slight adjustment from a framework that circulated Oct. 27, would extend the $8,000 credit for first-time homebuyers for sales contracts entered into by April 30, 2010, and closed within 60 days. It would also add a $6,500 credit for some owners of existing homes as long as they have been in their homes for five consecutive years in the past eight, said Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Harry Reid. According to Lachapelle, the income cap would be raised to $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples, up from $75,000 and $150,000, respectively."

Baucus Looking To Work His Magic On Climate Bill

Politico reports Baucus upsetting climate bill's momentum, Boxer downplays: "Boxer said she’s focused on getting a bill out of committee with as many members as possible, even if that means leaving Baucus behind. 'I need to get the votes out of the committee, and this is the Environment Committee, and we feel this is a very doable goal,' said Boxer, who is in ongoing discussions with Baucus and other committee members about the legislation. The California Democrat stressed the importance of other committee members, including moderate Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who played a major role in negotiating a deal with coal-state members and is expected to back the legislation ... [Baucus' Finance] committee plans to hold hearings on the bill during the next few weeks and may do its own markup covering the allocations system for the bill."

Climate Progress sends a memo to Baucus: "Your state’s trees are being ravaged by warming-driven pests now and Montana faces 175% to 400% increase in wildfire burn area."

Coal Tattoo reports today's Senate hearings focus on coal: "testimony is expected from Mike Carey, President of the Ohio Coal Association and Gene Trisko of the United Mine Workers of America union. I’d also suggest checking out what David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council has to say … NRDC has been very critical of coal, but also is a big supporter of CCS technology, so it will be interesting to see what Hawkins says about the latest bill."

Grist's Geoffrey Lean reports EU summit may impact Dec. UN talks: "On Thursday and Friday European heads of government, meeting in Brussels, will struggle to come up with proposals on how to finance measures in poor countries to cut emissions ... One group of nations –- including Britain, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands—wants the EU to name a sum as soon as possible, to get things moving and encourage other countries to act. Germany and Italy oppose this, believing that announcing a early decision could weaken the continent’s bargaining position. Even more seriously, most of the EU’s newer, and poorer members -– mainly from Eastern Europe and led by Poland -– object to providing funds to help developing countries that may be growing faster than their economies."

Obama 1, Military-Industrial Complex 0

NYT on signing of defense spending bill: "When the Obama administration proposed canceling a host of expensive weapons systems last spring, some of the military industry’s allies in Congress assumed, as they had in the past, that they would have the final say. But as the president signed a $680 billion military policy bill on Wednesday, it was clear that he had succeeded in paring back nearly all of the programs and setting a tone of greater restraint than the Pentagon had seen in many years. Now the question is whether Mr. Obama can sustain that push next year, when the midterm elections are likely to make Congress more resistant to further cuts and job losses."

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