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The Early Word: Policy in Overdrive

By BERNIE BECKER and KATE PHILLIPS
June 17, 2009
The New York Times

Health Care Hosts: On another big agenda item, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of Health and Human Services will be in high-profile mode again today. She’s speaking at a forum sponsored by the Democratic Leadership Council in the morning, and then she and other administration officials will be taking questions at a White House stakeout in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the president’s first choice for a health czar, former Senator Tom Daschle, and his bipartisan group of former Senate majority leaders — Howard Baker and Bob Dole release a report on the state of the health care system.

On Capitol Hill, it’s back to the drawing board on health care for Senate Democrats, following Monday’s not-so-positive estimate from the Congressional Budget Office about the cost of a bill being drafted by the Senate health panel.

The Senate Finance Committee will now delay the release of its detailed plan by several days in the wake of the C.B.O.’s conclusion that the health panel’s plan would leave 36 million Americans uninsured, even after spending $1 trillion over a decade. With Republicans having now pounced on those figures as well, Democrats have now, as The Times’s Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn report, “exposed deep internal disagreements over how to pay for revamping health care, with some pushing to tax employer-provided health benefits above a pre-set limit, and others urging tax increases outside the health arena.”

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has his own event, releasing a letter from more than 600 state legislators urging Congress and the administration to enact health care reform by the end of the year. The letter calls for any reform to include a public health option, something Mr. Harkin firmly backs himself.