Today’s Headlines – May 16, 2012

The New York Times: Republicans Pledge New Standoff On Debt Limit
But Republicans have not been able to unify around an alternative. Instead, they will bring forward four different budgets for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 — with a budget passed by House Republicans viewed as the most liberal of the lot. One by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky would eliminate the Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy; cut the National Park Service by 30 percent and NASA by a quarter; and end Medicare in 2014. Senator Mike Lee of Utah proposes a budget that would raise the retirement age to 68, cut the size of government in half over 25 years, and end the payroll tax as well as all taxes on savings and investment and replace them with a 25 percent flat tax (Weisman, 5/15).

Politico: Moderate Dems Frustrated By No Budget
The Democratic-led Senate on Wednesday is expected to reject all four GOP budget plans, including the contentious House-passed proposal authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). A fifth budget, offered by Republicans and based on President Barack Obama 2013 spending blueprint, also will likely fall short of the 50 votes needed to pass, dealing the White House an embarrassing election-year blow. But Democratic leaders have defiantly refused to lay out their own vision for how to deal with federal debt and spending, arguing that last summer’s debt-ceiling deal essentially serves as an actual budget (Wong, 5/15).

For more headlines …

The Washington Post: Boehner Threatens Another Debt-Ceiling Fight
Boehner, meanwhile, made it clear that he is ready to use the debt limit as a cudgel to force Democrats to compromise, particularly on a strategy for restraining spending on Medicare and other federal health programs, which are the biggest drivers of future borrowing (Montgomery, 5/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Boehner Draws Line In Sand On Debt
Tuesday’s salvos were the latest in the election-year debate over the size and scope of the federal government. Democrats have called for a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce the deficit and Republicans have called for spending cuts and overhauls of entitlement programs like Medicare (Paletta, 5/15).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Clinton To Obama: Talk About Cuts
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that President Barack Obama should spend more time talking to the American people about his budget proposals to launch a national dialogue about the crucial issues. The “president should talk more about the Medicare cuts he has proposed” and the “defense cuts he has proposed,” Mr. Clinton said. … “He is at least trying to honor the deal he made with Republicans, and I think he should talk more about it and I think they should talk more about it,” he said during remarks at a “fiscal summit” held in Washington by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (Paletta, 5/15).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: After Last Year’s Budget Failures, Lawmakers Gather For Annual Deficit Pep Talk
Boehner made the top headline at this year’s summit by declaring that when it comes time for Congress to raise the nation’s borrowing cap he will again insist on spending cuts and budget reforms exceeding the amount of the debt increase to offset it. He also promised a vote on renewing trillions of dollars in tax cuts passed during the Bush administration, prompting a predictable response from top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California (5/16).

The Des Moines Register/USA Today: Romney Discuses Debt During Iowa Stop
Romney’s ideas for cutting the $15.67 trillion national debt — don’t raise taxes, reform entitlement programs, limit spending — were met with strong applause from the crowd of more than 300 people. An additional 100 people stood in an overflow area. On his first trip to Iowa since the caucuses when he was initially declared the winner, Romney didn’t offer new proposals, but the way he framed his argument was fresh and probably telegraphs a strategy to chip away at Obama’s credibility on his pledge to cut the deficit in half (Jacobs, 5/15).

Los Angeles Times: Average Annual Healthcare Cost For A Family Tops $20,000
Healthcare or a Hyundai? The average cost of healthcare for a family of four this year has increased nearly 7% to $20,728 annually, according to a new study by benefits consultant Milliman, or similar to the cost of a mid-size sedan (Terhune, 5/15).

Politico: Immigration Status Is A Health Policy Challenge
The Obama administration’s drive to cut down on America’s uninsured is about to get multilingual. Come 2014, when core provisions of the Affordable Care Act kick in, millions of legal immigrants will have new options for gaining health coverage. And like U.S. citizens, most will be subject to the individual mandate, under which they will be required to get coverage to avoid a penalty (Cheney, 5/16).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Alzheimer’s Focus Shifts To Testing Therapies Earlier, Before Patients Show Many Symptoms
Look for a fundamental shift in how scientists hunt ways to ward off the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease — by testing possible therapies in people who don’t yet show many symptoms, before too much of the brain is destroyed (5/15).

NPR: Poll: Americans Show Support For Compensation Of Organ Donors
Federal law bans payments for organs. But given the need, we wondered what Americans thought about compensation for three kinds of donations that can be made while people are alive: kidneys, bone marrow and a portion of liver big enough to help someone whose liver is failing (Hensley, 5/16).

NPR: Medical Records Could Yield Answers On Fracking
A proposed study of people in northern Pennsylvania could help resolve a national debate about whether the natural gas boom is making people sick. The study would look at detailed health histories on hundreds of thousands of people who live near the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation in which energy companies have already drilled about 5,000 natural gas wells (Hamilton, 5/16).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: In Abortion Move, Kansas Pharmacists Can Refuse Some Prescriptions
The Republican governor of Kansas has signed a law allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs they believe may induce abortions, a move opponents said could hinder some women’s access to birth control. Governor Sam Brownback’s office said on Tuesday that the
bill “gives more legal protection to Kansas health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions” based on their conscience (Murphy, 5/15).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Utah Technology Director Resigns In Wake Of Data Theft At State Health Department
Utah’s chief technology officer has resigned following the theft of hundreds of thousands of online medical records from state computers by unknown hackers (5/15).

The Washington Post: Washington’s Catholic Archbishop, Georgetown President Spar Over Graduation Invitation To Kathleen Sebelius
Since Sebelius was announced earlier this month as one of the speakers for this week’s Georgetown graduation ceremonies, about 27,000 people have signed a petition, circulated by a conservative Catholic think tank, urging the university to withdraw the invitation. Sebelius was a key architect of the 2010 health-care law, and she authored the requirement that employers, including most religious ones, provide their employees with contraception coverage (Boorstein, 5/15).