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Congress: We've got a deal

"After agreeing tentatively to jettison a key liberal priority -- a full-blown government-run insurance option -- Democrats say they are getting close to pushing President Barack Obama's health care bill through the Senate," the AP writes. But it would include a "nonprofit national health plans administered by the Office of Personnel Management, which runs the popular federal employees' health plan, as well as opening Medicare to uninsured Americans beginning at age 55, effective in 2011. Greater government involvement would potentially kick in if private insurance companies declined to participate in the nationwide plan, although details weren't available."

The New York Times has details: "Under the agreement, people ages 55 to 64 could 'buy in' to Medicare. And a federal agency, the Office of Personnel Management, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer national health benefit plans, similar to those offered to federal employees, including members of Congress. If these private plans did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available to all Americans, Senate Democratic aides said, then the government itself would offer a new insurance plan, somewhat like the 'public option' in the bill Mr. Reid unveiled three weeks ago."

"While re-affirming his fierce opposition to the 'public option,' Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., showed an openness to consider the deal, which would create an insurance program regulated by the government but run by private insurance companies," NBC's Ken Strickland writes in a longer piece on Lieberman for MSNBC.com. "Lieberman's apparent receptiveness to the compromise could eventually provide Senate Democrats with the critical 60th vote they need to pass the sweeping health care reform bill… Lieberman said the idea of a national insurance plan that mirrors the one offered to members of Congress is 'an idea worth considering' as long as private companies run the program."

"The House will move as early as next week on a jobs bill anchored by at least $75 billion in spending on infrastructure, according to House Democrats," The Hill reports. 
 
Democrats are working up a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. And there's a lot in this -- Amtrak riders having the ability to carry guns on trains, an increase in foreign aid, cutting part of a program to help incarcerate illegal immigrants who commit crimes, allowing Gitmo detainees to be transferred to the U.S. to stand trial, lifting a ban to fund abortion by Washington, D.C. and nixing a DC schools voucher program. It would also subsidize flights to rural airports and provide money for high-speed rail, and more.

Now for the important stuff… "A House panel was to consider a proposal to ban the promotion of a postseason NCAA Division I football game as a national championship unless it's the outcome of a playoff. Texas Rep. Joe "Barton said Congress' attention is warranted, since 'at this level, college football is a multibillion-dollar business' not much different from other businesses that face congressional oversight… But the measure faces long odds getting through Congress, given the wide geographic representation of schools in the six conferences that get automatic BCS bowl bids. 'We just can't imagine that the members of Congress will think it's their job to dictate how college football should be played,'" a BCS official said. BCS had to be somewhat worried. It hired former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer to handle its P.R.

Also, the House Homeland Security committee is slated to vote on whether to subpoena the party-crashing couple, the Salahis. An attorney for the Salahis yesterday told NBC's Savannah Guthrie that the couple would invoke the 5th Amendment if they are required to testify.

A Senate Banking Committee vote on Bernanke's nomination is expected Dec. 17. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/71195-committee-vote-on-bernanke-expected-next-week"> 
 
For those of you keeping track of the Senate's agenda at home, expect that after health care, financial regulation reform is next, followed by climate change.