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Congress: House bill now $871B

The Washington Post: "House leaders have cut the cost of their health-care overhaul to around $871 billion over the next decade, Democratic sources said Tuesday night, and were working to line up votes for the package with the aim of bringing it before the full House early next month. The $871 billion estimate -- well under the $900 billion limit set by President Obama -- is the latest of several versions scored by congressional budget analysts, according to a Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks. The measure would include a government-run insurance plan that pays providers at rates tied to Medicare, the aide added."

"Top Senate Democrats intend to try to strip the health insurance industry of its exemption from federal antitrust laws, according to congressional officials, the latest evidence of a deepening struggle over President Barack Obama's effort to overhaul the health care industry," the AP says. "If enacted, the switch would mean greater federal regulation for an industry that recently has stepped up its criticism of portions of a health care bill moving toward the Senate floor."

Per NBC's Carroll Ann Mears, here's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday on health care: "We've had some very good meetings today. The one we started at 6:00 pm, we just wrapped it up with the two chairmen, the President's chief of staff, Nancy-Ann DeParle and staff in different areas of expertise has been extremely rewarding. We're not completely to the point where the two bills are put together but we're making a lot of progress."

More Reid: "What we do every night is pick a number of issues that everyone knows ahead of time -- what we're going to talk about. We did that today. We're going to do it tomorrow. I've been very satisfied. There have been no loud voices. The staffs have been working very well together. The two senators who are chairman of these major committees are working together. For example, today Chairman Baucus wanted to make a presentation but his staff gave it to the help committee staff first so there are no surprises. I feel very good about where we are and where we're going."

She ain't Olympia Snowe. Roll Call looks at how the other senator from Maine, Susan Collins -- a former state insurance regulator (appointed to that job by her husband) -- hasn't been swayed by Snowe's overtures toward to White House on health care and is skeptical of reform legislation making its way through both houses. "Susan Collins is as conservative a Senator as can be elected from Maine," a former GOP Senate leadership aide said. "She is wired differently than Sen. Snowe. Susan Collins will over-think every aspect of this, but will do what's in her gut in the end."
In her own words (yesterday): "Both of the Senate bills would have the unintended but very real effect of actually driving up the cost of health insurance for middle-income families," Collins said. "That is the opposite of what most people want to have occur, but it's what I believe would be the result. ... Neither bill takes strong enough steps to reform the health care delivery system to lower the cost of health care. The cost of health care is the major barrier for the unemployed. It's the major reason that small businesses and middle-income families are struggling."

"Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room to keep them from meeting when Democrats aren't present," The Hill writes. "Towns' action came after repeated public ridicule from the leading Republican on the committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), over Towns's failure to launch an investigation into Countrywide Mortgage's reported sweetheart deals to VIPs."