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Senate panel to vote Tuesday on $829B health care overhaul

WASHINGTON — A key Senate committee will vote Tuesday on its $829 billion overhaul of the nation's health care system, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday, the final hurdle before the full House and Senate can begin their debate on the future of health care.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Reid, D-Nev., blasted Republicans for opposing the Finance Committee's measure, accusing GOP leaders of aiming to be "partisan protesters" rather than "productive partners."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fired back that Democrats have yet to craft a package that can win 60 votes and that until they do, any claims that the package can dramatically shrink the ranks of the uninsured while lowering the budget deficit are "irrelevant."

Across Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would send three different versions of her chamber's health care bill to the Congressional Budget Office for analysis. Pelosi said all three versions will include a government-sponsored insurance plan — unlike the Senate Finance measure.

After Pelosi gets the CBO's analysis back, Democratic leaders and the House Rules Committee will assemble a bill for floor consideration. The week of Oct. 19 is the earliest the vote could occur.

Also in Washington

Patriot Act: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that would renew portions of the USA Patriot Act in an effort to address administration concerns about protecting terrorism investigations. By a vote of 11 to 8, the committee sent to the Senate floor a measure that would extend until 2013 three surveillance provisions set to expire Dec. 31. They would allow investigators to use roving wiretaps to monitor suspects who may switch cell phone numbers, to obtain business records of national security targets and to track "lone wolves" who may be acting alone on behalf of foreign powers or terrorist groups.

Jobless benefits: Senate Democrats said Thursday they have reached a deal to extend unemployment insurance benefits to the nearly 2 million jobless workers across the country who are in danger of running out of assistance by the end of the year. The agreement would give an additional 14 weeks of benefits to jobless workers in all 50 states. Workers in states with an unemployment rate at 8.5 percent or above would receive six weeks on top of that.

Senate panel to vote Tuesday on $829B health care overhaul 10/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 11:24pm]
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