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  Deals For Senators' Votes Draw Scrutiny  

Much of the healthcare reform coverage Monday and this morning focuses on the deals made in the Senate to secure support from wavering Democrats. ABC World News (12/21, lead story, 2:40, Sawyer) reported, "In the Senate, exhaustion, accusations, high drama over what is in the bill, and what price was paid to get it. ABC (Karl) added, "That middle of the night vote was a major victory for the President and for Democratic leaders. It was also a windfall for a few key senators. ... Inside the bill you will find an ambitious restructuring of the health insurance system, made possible in part by lots of special treats inserted by key senators.


        According to the AP (12/22, Werner), "The deals in the massive bill range from $100 million to pay the full cost of a Medicaid expansion in Nebraska...to exempting roughly 800,000 seniors in Florida from potential benefit cuts by private Medicare Advantage plans, something sought by Sen. Bill Nelson." The AP adds that "the deals that Nebraska and a few other states got on Medicaid prompted grumbling from some who got no special help." California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is said, "I think it is unfair. ... Right now I don't feel we're getting our fair share of federal money in many different areas."


        Dana Milbank, in his "Washington Sketch" column for he Washington Post (12/22), writes, "Formally, it is known as H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But this week, it has acquired an unhelpful nickname: 'Cash for Cloture.' ... Those combing through the bill have uncovered many backroom deals that were made to buy, er, secure the 60 votes needed to 'invoke cloture.'"


        Fox News' Special Report (12/21, lead story, Angle) reported, "To get 60 votes, Sen. Reid had to...increase taxes by $25 billion more than planned, bringing the total tax increases to $518 billion." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was shown saying, "It's bad news for the American people. ... This bill...would cut Medicare by half a trillion dollars, raise half a trillion dollars in taxes and create higher insurance premiums for everybody else."


        Health industry PACs' contributions to key senators noted. USA Today (12/22, Schouten) reports that "the five senators charged with overseeing the floor debate count health interests among their biggest campaign contributors, records show. The political action committees and employees of drugmakers Schering-Plough and Amgen have been the top two contributors in the past five years to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and is one of three senators managing the bill for Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics." USA Today adds, "Healthcare interests also dominate contributions to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, giving more than $1.3 million to the five-term senator between 2005 and this year."


        Klayman files suit seeking details of White House meetings. The Hill (12/22, Fabian, subscription required) reports, "Conservative attorney Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit against the White House Monday demanding that it release information on healthcare meetings with lobbyists. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court, charges the Obama Administration violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Freedom of Information Act by not providing relevant information about closed-door meetings on healthcare policy."


The Washington Post (12/22, Murray) reports, "Senators prepared to cast the second of three procedural votes early Tuesday [7 AM] to end the healthcare debate, but Republicans showed little indication that they were ready to relent in a standoff that could push passage of the legislation to the latter part of Christmas Eve."


        The Hill (12/22, Alarkon, subscription required) reports Senate majority leader Harry Reid "has scheduled the final vote for around 7 p.m. Thursday, but Democrats have noted it could take place earlier if Republicans agreed to do so." The Hill adds that the Senate "will vote Tuesday morning at 7:15 on a package of amendments to the bill, followed immediately by a vote to limit debate on a substitute measure necessary for procedural reasons. ... The vote on the substitute measure will take place Wednesday afternoon, followed immediately by a vote to limit debate on the healthcare bill itself. If that passes, the vote to pass the healthcare bill could take place at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve."


        According to the Washington Times (12/22, Haberkorn), "The votes are being held at odd times -- from the middle of the night to just after dawn -- because Senate rules require at least one calendar day and an hour between the time the so-called 'cloture' vote is requested and when it is held. Democrats could have postponed the votes until normal business hours, but that would have pushed the final vote for passage to Christmas Day."


        The Washington Post (12/22, Rucker) notes that "behind each cranky senator dealing his or her way toward a historic Christmas Eve vote on healthcare reform is a cadre of staff members laboring day and night to make sense of the ever-changing 2,457-page bill, tutor their bosses, spin the press and break down what it means for constituents back home. ... Senators and hundreds of their health policy analysts, press secretaries and other aides -- not to mention the universe of police officers, clerks and student pages who keep the place humming -- wishing to be with their families will instead spend the holiday in Washington. And there's a possibility the Senate could be called back next week, to take up debt-limit legislation."


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