ABC News' Teddy Davis reports: It's time to iron out differences in the House.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "accelerating efforts" to develop a consensus health-care bill that would meld three committee versions passed during the summer, and "has hopes" of nailing down details late next week. She will be begin this process with a Friday meeting in her office that will include the House Democratic leadership, the chair of the Rules Committee (Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.) and the chairs of the three committees which have produced health-care bills (Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.). The purpose of the meeting is to resolve differences among House Democrats. On the table will be the shape of the public option, how to pay for the bill, regional disparities, how to structure restrictions on abortion funding, and whether to strengthen measures to prevent illegal immigrants from benefiting from a health-care overhaul. It is unclear what will be decided today. When it comes to the public option, Pelosi and other progressives would like to use Medicare rates, believing such an approach would save the government money. The Speaker, however, is getting pushback from moderate and conservative Democrats, many of whom worry that health-care providers are already being squeezed by Medicare's below-market rates. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a leader of the Blue Dogs, a coalition of 52 moderate Democrats, told the Wall Street Journal that tying payment rates to Medicare would "tilt the ‘playing field' toward the public option, and ‘very few Blue Dogs' support the idea." Rep. Slaughter, the head of the Rules Committee, tells Politico that the goal is to have a bill on the House floor in mid-October. While Democratic lawmakers try to iron out differences in the House, the fight over a public option is bubbling up in the Senate. Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., are planning to force a roll-call vote in the Senate Finance Committee on two amendments that would create a government-run insurance program – a top priority for liberal Democrats that was left out of the bill drafted by Finance Chairman Max Baucus. Originally, Schumer and Rockefeller were planning to push this amendment today. It has now been pushed back to next week because the mark-up is only going until noon. The amendments are not likely to pass, according to ABC's Jonathan Karl, because they will be opposed by all Republicans, and at least four Democrats on the committee are cool to the idea of a public option (Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Tom Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Bill Nelson of Florida), but Schumer has been trying to negotiate with those Democrats to craft a version of the public option they could support. If the amendments fail, it would appear that a pure public option is all but dead in the Senate (although liberals will try to resurrect it when the full Senate takes up the bill). U.S. Accuses Iran of Concealing Nuclear Site: On Friday morning, President Obama, French President Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused Iran of building a clandestine underground nuclear fuel manufacturing plant, which Iran's leaders have hidden from weapons inspectors. "Iran's decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime," said Obama. Appearing Friday morning on "Good Morning America," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said that White House officials are confident that intelligence proving that Iran has concealed a second nuclear enrichment site will galvanize the international sanctions effort. The Rest of Obama's Friday: President Obama is in Pittsburgh today for the G-20. He began his day with an 8:30 am ET statement accusing Iran of concealing a nuclear site.
Other highlights on his schedule include plans to attend a 9:30 am ET plenary session of the G-20 at the Pittsburgh Convention Center followed by a press conference at 4:40 pm ET.
President Obama returns to the White House at 7:20 pm ET.
The G-20 is replacing the G-8 as the primary international economic summit, reports ABC's Jake Tapper. The change will be officially announced by the G-20 later today.
White House Regroups on Guantanamo:
"With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba," White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig is "no longer in charge of the project," reports the Washington Post.
A White House official tells ABC's George Stephanopoulos that "not every" detainee will be out of Guantanamo by the president's January 22nd deadline for closing the prison. Obama is still committed to closing the facility and hopes the population will "dwindle substantially" by the January, but the official told Stephanopoulos that "the President's not going to sacrifice national security for the sake of the deadline." White House officials add that White House Counsel Greg Craig has not been asked by Obama to resign, but it's likely that he would take an attractive diplomatic post if "one were to come open." GOP to Block Health Nominees Over ‘Gag Order':
The Senate's top Republicans are vowing to block President Obama from filling health posts until his administration stops barring insurers from telling seniors how they could be impacted by cuts to Medicare Advantage. Here is how this maneuver would work: Republicans won't give Democrats consent to move Obama's HHS nominees quickly. In effect, Republicans will require Democrats to file cloture and use all the time available for debate, rather than yielding it back under an agreement.
Pending the health of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Democrats will have 60 votes when Paul Kirk is sworn in as the junior senator from Massachusetts later today. Because they will have 60 votes, Democrats will eventually be able to get the nominations through. But each nominee will take a long time to process. Rather than bow to GOP pressure, Sen. Baucus, the Finance chairman, dug in late Thursday and scheduled a confirmation hearing for two HHS nominees: Jim Esquea, to be Assistant Secretary for Legislation, and Bryan Samuels to be Commissioner of Children, Youth, and Families, reports ABC's Z. Byron Wolf.
NYT/CBS Poll: "President Obama is confronting declining support for his handling of the war in Afghanistan and an electorate confused and anxious about the proposed health care overhaul as he prepares for pivotal battles over both issues, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll." Kirk for Kennedy: Senator-designate Paul Kirk will be sworn in on the Senate floor today at 3:30 pm ET. He will then attend a 3:45 pm mock swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber. On Thursday, Kirk asked Sen. Kennedy's staff to stay onboard. McChrystal Talks to "60 Minutes": In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" which is set to air on Sunday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal says that "the breadth" and "geographic spread" of violence in Afghanistan is "a little more than I would have gathered." The increased violence has resulted in 265 civilians killed in U.S. or coalition action in the past 12 months the general says, a situation that must stop if victory is to be attained. "This civilian casualty issue is much more important than I even realized. It is literally how we lose the war, or in many ways how we win it." VPOTUS to Survey Flood Damage in Georgia: Vice President Biden travels to Georgia today to survey the flood damage and to discuss the federal government's commitment to helping the region. The vice president will also visit with families affected by the floods.
Justice Ginsburg Released from Hospital: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed overnight at Washington Hospital Center as a precautionary measure. The 76-year old Supreme Court justice fell ill at work on Thursday after receiving iron sucrose infusions as a treatment for anemia. She was released from the hospital Friday morning and plans to be back at the Supreme Court Friday afternoon, reports ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg. Earlier this year, Ginsburg underwent pancreatic cancer surgery.
Obama's Deal with Drug Firms Survives: President Obama "scored a big victory on Thursday as the Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to give bigger discounts to Medicare on drugs dispensed to older Americans with low incomes," reports the New York Times. "The victory came at the expense of senators in Mr. Obama's own party who had championed the proposal."
Unions Criticize Obama's School Proposals as ‘Bush III': "To the surprise of many educators who campaigned last year for change in the White House, the Obama administration's first recipe for school reform relies heavily on Bush-era ingredients and adds others that make unions gag," reports the Washington Post. "It looks like the only strategies they have are charter schools and measurement," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "That's Bush III." During his Wednesday appearance on "Charlie Rose," White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel seemed to wear the opposition from unions like a badge of honor. He pointed to President Obama's clash with teachers unions as a sign that the president is willing to "challenge allies when it comes to America's interests." "He's taking on ‘the teachers' union' in his pursuit of charter schools and teacher testing and student testing and accountability," said Emanuel. 2009: Virginia: "Spurning pleas from the president and the leader of his party," former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder refused to endorse fellow Democrat Creigh Deeds, "taking issue with the candidate's willingness to raise taxes in a weak economy," reports the Washington Times. 2009: New Jersey: "While President Obama's political team seeks to nudge David A. Paterson out of the New York governorship, they are fully engaged in trying to get Jon S. Corzine re-elected" in New Jersey," reports the New York Times. 2010: Democratic Money Woes: "Democrats Are Jarred by Drop In Fundraising," blares the front page of the Washington Post.
The Kicker: "Pure self-interest, Jay. If it fails, I'm dead." –Vice President Biden to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) after he told the vice president he couldn't express how much he and his fellow governors appreciate Biden's interest."I would have beaten him like a rented mule." –Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., to ABC's "Top Line" when asked how he would have fared if he had gotten into the race against New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.