Today’s Headlines – Oct. 5, 2011

Today’s headlines include reports about Congress’ continuing struggle with budget and spending issues.

Politico: Tax, Entitlement Deal Still In Play
If Republicans believe that tax reform will lead to higher revenues, now is the time to lay away a down payment for that future. If Democrats are committed to a long-term fix for Medicare physician payments, then layaway savings could pay for it later (Rogers, 10/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Short-Term Spending Bill Clears House
Passage of the short-term funding bill sets the stage for debate on a longer-term one to provide funding through the 2012 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Leaders of both parties have said they hope to reach agreement on a longer-term measure before Nov. 18, when government funding would otherwise expire under the bill approved Tuesday. House Republicans are angling to spend billions of dollars less than Senate Democrats want on the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and significantly more on the Pentagon (Boles, 10/5).

For more headlines …

Politico: House Easily Clears Latest Stopgap Funding Bill
The stopgap bill—now on the way to the White House—is relatively clean in this regard, but the multiple riders could be a major hurdle still to working out more permanent full year appropriations. For example, a $153.4 billion budget for labor, health and education programs—unveiled by the House GOP last week—is peppered with such riders (Rogers, 10/4).

The Hill: GOP Worries They’ll Have To Accept Massive Spending Measure
Frustrated House Republicans are grappling with the possibility that they will be forced to swallow the kind of massive spending package many of them campaigned against when Democrats were in power. … The prospect of signing off on a bill that could exceed 1,000 pages and appropriate about $1 trillion in federal spending is a sore subject for Republicans, particularly the freshmen who pledged not to vote for legislation too bulky even to read (Berman and Wasson, 10/5).

Los Angeles Times: Pressing For Better Quality Across Healthcare
The cardiac intensive care unit at Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta gleams and hums with a dazzling array of scientific wonders that breathe for tiny lungs and monitor every beat of an infant heart. But on a recent visit, Dr. Donald Berwick was especially pleased by something decidedly low-tech: a quiet zone where nurses can place medication orders without being interrupted, even during emergencies (Levey, 10/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Sets $50 Million Union Bailout
The Cuomo administration has quietly authorized a $50 million bailout of an insurance fund for the 1199SEIU health-care workers, a decision that a union official said helped secure its endorsement of the state’s Medicaid budget (Gershman, 10/5).

The Hill: Sen. Sanders On Raising Medicare Age To Cut Deficit: ‘Ain’t Gonna Happen’
As part of their efforts to cut federal spending, GOP leaders are eying a number of entitlement reforms, including raising the eligibility age for seniors receiving Medicare and Social Security. President Obama also riled liberals over the summer when he signaled a willingness to scale back some entitlement benefits as part of his (failed) effort to secure a bipartisan debt-ceiling deal with House Speaker John Boehner (Lillis, 10/4).

Politico: Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin Wins West Virginia Special Election
Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin beat back a torrent of late Republican attacks linking him to President Obama to win the West Virginia governorship Tuesday night. … Maloney fought back from what was once a 30-point race to narrow the contest to a near draw, with the help of nearly $3.5 million in television ads from the Republican Governors Association. The onslaught of commercials — including the final salvo linking Tomblin to “Obamacare” — clearly did damage to Tomblin’s image, but did not prove to be the death blow that some Democrats had feared. Overall, Republicans outspent Democrats 2-to-1 on the race, including candidates and committees (Cantanese, 10/5).

Politico: How One Criminal Case Hit K Street
On paper, the National Association for Behavioral Health looked like a thousand other trade groups that can be found in Washington. … The Justice Department called the NABH “a legitimate-looking vehicle” that was essentially controlled by Lawrence Duran, a Miami businessman who pleaded guilty earlier this year to 38 counts of health care fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Duran was the pivotal figure in a long-running criminal scheme that bilked the Medicare program out of $87 million, but his efforts to influence Washington and play the lobbying game were only recently revealed in a slew of court documents released last month (Bresnahan and Palmer, 10/4).