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Politics Today: A New Stimulus Jolt

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

** A setback for liberals in the health care debate …

** The Obama team takes on challenges in Afghanistan and Iran …

**The Senate readies its climate change legislation …

5302328PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: The president heads to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where he'll announce $5 billion in economic stimulus funds for the NIH to create jobs and support research for cancer and other diseases, reports the Associated Press.

The money comes from the $787 billion economic stimulus program that is designed to help create jobs and turn around the economy. Jared Bernstein, who is Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist, says the $5 billion will support some 12,000 existing projects and create thousands of jobs over the next two years for researchers and educators, as well as medical equipment makers and suppliers.

Mr. Obama will be joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

It wouldn't be a surprise if he also touched on the tsunami in the Samoas, which has left at least 99 dead.

The president has already declared a major disaster for American Samoa, a U.S. territory, and early this morning, he put out a written statement:

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami in American Samoa and the region. I am closely monitoring these tragic events, and have declared a major disaster for American Samoa, which will provide the tools necessary for a full, swift and aggressive response. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in close and constant contact with emergency responders, and the U.S. Coast Guard is fully supporting the deployment of resources to those areas in need of immediate assistance. We also stand ready to help our friends in Samoa and the region. Going forward, we will continue to provide the resources necessary to respond to this catastrophe, and we will keep those who have lost so much in our thoughts and prayers."

This afternoon, Mr. Obama has a meeting with his national security advisers to discuss the war in Afghanistan. Among those attending the meeting in the White House Situation Room: Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones. Gen. Stanly McChrystal and others will participate by remote video.

Meantime, Vice President Biden and his wife Jill will be in Dover, Del., this morning for a welcome-home ceremony honoring the Delaware Army National Guard 261st Signal Brigade. The Bidens' son, Beau, who is also Delaware's Attorney General and an expected candidate to fill his father's former U.S. Senate seat, is in the brigade.

5349265HEALTH CARE: "In the first significant setback for the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday soundly rejected the 'public option,' or government-run health insurance plan," writes McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman.

"Two efforts to adopt a public plan lost, one by 15 to 8, the other by 13 to 10. Three Democrats - Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Kent Conrad of North Dakota - voted against both proposals. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Tom Carper, D-Del., backed a public plan that could negotiate rates with doctors, hospitals and other health providers, while opposing an alternative that would've tied the plan's rates to those paid by Medicare for two years.

"Reid Cherlin, a White House spokesman, said that while Obama believes in making a public option available to the uninsured, the president is 'open to other constructive ideas of increasing choice and competition.'

"The votes, however, sent sobering signals to the White House about prospects for any public plan."

"Tuesday's votes set up the big drama for the next two months: whether Democrats can put aside intraparty divisions and craft a bill that will win a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House," add the Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy. "Numerically, Democrats enjoy about as strong a position as they could hope for, with 60 votes in the Senate thanks to the arrival of a replacement for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, a large majority in the House and a still-popular president in the White House driving the overhaul.

"Yet the party has sharp disagreements on key issues including the public option -- which liberals say is a must in the bill -- and taxes. Democratic leaders in the House are still pushing a surtax on the wealthy. But with the Senate Finance Committee opposed, House Democrats are now considering plans to scale back the surtax and pick up some version of a Senate-proposed tax on insurers offering high-cost health plans."

The New York Times' Robert Pear and Jackie Calmes add, "The votes on Tuesday set the stage for a compromise under which the public plan could be offered in states where people could not find affordable private coverage, [Sen. Tom] Carper [D-Del.] said. He and Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, have proposed such a compromise. Democrats hope Ms. Snowe will eventually break with her party and support the legislation."

5192102"The votes are likely to deepen fissures in the Democratic Party over the shape of the legislation, and they proved what critics have long argued: Moderate Democrats are reluctant to expand the federal health-care role beyond the current boundaries of the Medicare, Medicaid and Department of Veterans Affairs programs," write the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery. "Even President Obama, who has repeatedly supported a government-run plan in public statements, has indicated that the idea is not worth the price of failing to enact his biggest domestic policy goal.

"Despite the setback for advocates of a public option, debate over such a plan is certain to continue. Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who offered the amendments that were voted down Tuesday, have vowed to keep the issue at the forefront as the debate unfolds. And Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) could include a government plan when he combines the Finance Committee's bill with Senate health committee legislation, approved in July, that includes a public option.

"Aides said Tuesday that Reid has not decided how to proceed. If he doesn't include a public option, backers of a government plan will seek to amend the bill when it advances to the Senate floor, or during final negotiations with the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) remains a staunch advocate."

"President Barack Obama got an early look at the depth of the Democratic divide on the government insurance option Tuesday — with Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad saying it would bankrupt North Dakota's hospitals and Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) saying it's the only way to rein in ravenous, profit-hungry private insurers," writes Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown. "Not long from now, Obama's going to have to referee the whole thing."

Washington Post's Dan Balz, "On Health-Care Stage, Spotlight Is Now on Obama": "Obama favors the public option but has strongly signaled his willingness to allow it to die if that is the price of winning broader support for overhauling the health-care system. He will soon have to choose between those Democrats who want it, including many of his most passionate backers from last year's election, and t
those who don't. And he will have to persuade the losing side to stick with him, regardless."

Wall Street Journal's Anna Wilde Matthews, "Making Sense of the Debate on Health Care"

(CBS/Mary Walsh)
AFGHANISTAN: "Recent claims of significant success against al-Qaeda have become part of White House deliberations about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, centering on a request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and NATO commander there, for an expanded counterinsurgency campaign that will require more U.S. troops," write the Washington Post's Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus. "Discussions began in earnest Tuesday as senior national security and military officials met with President Obama.

"Those within the administration who have suggested limiting large-scale U.S. ground combat in Afghanistan, including Vice President Biden, have pointed to an improved counterterrorism effort as evidence that Obama's principal objective -- destroying al-Qaeda -- can be achieved without an expanded troop presence."

The New York Times' Peter Baker reports: "When President Obama looks at the screen in the Situation Room on Wednesday, he will find a face he has not seen lately except in newspapers. There, via secure video from Kabul, will be Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, his commander in Afghanistan, explaining directly to the president for the first time why more troops are needed.

"General McChrystal has not spoken with Mr. Obama since submitting his grim assessment of the war a month ago and has spoken with him only once in the 100 days since he took command of all American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The lack of direct communication has generated criticism and fueled suspicions of strains between the White House and Kabul."

Boston Globe's Farah Stockman, "Don't rush Afghan decision, Kerry cautions president": " Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry is using his influence as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to urge the president to take weeks, or even months, to conduct a sweeping review of the overall mission in Afghanistan and generate a national debate on the war before committing more troops."

(AP Photo/Ali Shaigan, Fars)
IRAN: "With tense international talks drawing near, Iran on Tuesday boldly reasserted its right to build nuclear installations, while fissures appeared in the coalition of nations seeking to steer the country's leadership away from its nuclear ambitions," report the Los Angeles Times' Paul Richter and Christi Parsons.

"Iran held fast to its hard-line position in the wake of revelations of a new underground nuclear site, but also offered a conciliatory gesture by saying it would set a timetable "soon" to admit international inspectors to the facility, near the holy city of Qom.

"The split image of confrontation and vague cooperation injected an added sense of drama to Thursday's nuclear talks in Geneva, leaving diplomats uncertain whether Iran will negotiate seriously with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany."

New York Times' Scott Shane, "In Dispute With Iran, Path to Iraq Is in Spotlight": "The question is inevitable: Is the uproar over the secret plant near Qum another rush to judgment, based on ambiguous evidence, spurred on by a desire to appear tough toward a loathed regime? In other words, is the United States repeating the mistakes of 2002? Antiwar activists, with a fool-me-once skepticism, watch the dispute over the Qum plant with an alarmed sense of déjà vu. And some specialists on arms control and Iran are asking for more evidence and warning against hasty conclusions. But while the similarities between 2002, when the faulty intelligence estimates were produced, and 2009 are unmistakable, the differences are profound."

(CBS)
2016 OLYMPICS: "Team Obama starts arriving Wednesday in Copenhagen, the vanguard of a high-profile effort to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, the president's adopted hometown," reports McClatchy Newspapers' Steven Thomma. "First lady Michelle Obama and top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett are to arrive at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Denmark on Wednesday to start lobbying in competition with three other bidders: Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro; and Tokyo.

"President Barack Obama will join them Friday in the first personal bid for an Olympics by a U.S. president. He'll go head to head with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan and King Juan Carlos of Spain.

"The lobbying is personal, of course: The Obamas and Jarrett are from Chicago, as are many of the top White House staff. So is some of the criticism from conservatives who are lambasting the White House lobbying for the Olympics.

"Pundit Michelle Malkin is ripping the U.S. bid, saying that the Obamas 'wasted public school kids' time as junior lobbyists for their Chicago cronies' Olympics bid' when they invited some children to the White House for a pro-Olympics event. Conservative-leaning Web site Drudge Report suggested that gang violence taints Chicago's bid with a lead headline Tuesday: 'Olympic Spirit: Video Shows Brutal Gang Murder in Chicago.'"

Wall Street Journal's Douglas Belkin, "Mayor Places Olympian Bet on Chicago's Bid for Games": "On the eve of the International Olympic Committee's vote Friday on whether Chicago will host the 2016 Olympic Games, Chicagoans have abandoned their first citizen just when [Richard M.] Daley needs them the most. The Second City is weary after months of recession and Illinois corruption scandals, and angry about everything from rising taxes to deepening potholes. The city is especially skeptical of Mr. Daley's Olympic push: After pledging Chicago wouldn't pay a cent should the Games lose money, the mayor later said Chicago would cover any potential shortfall."

Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet, "Valerie Jarrett likens Chicago 2016 Olympic vote to Iowa caucus": "The IOC has 106 members and the voting could go for several rounds. Only about 50 votes are needed for Chicago to be named the host city over Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Jarrett said an apt comparison to Chicago's IOC campaign would be the Iowa caucus.

"Said Jarrett, 'The Iowa caucus, where you can have more than one round and every single vote counts and it is very retail and you have to earn the trust and confidence of every single person you can and that's where our effort will be....it is very germane in the home stretch.'"

(CBS/AP)
CLIMATE CHANGE: The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin reports: "The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will unveil a bill Wednesday that aims to make deep cuts in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in the near and long term while setting a limit on the cost of carbon allowances, according to several sources and a close-to-final version of the bill obtained by The Washington Post.

"The bill, which is still being revised, would make it easier for businesses to compensate for their carbon pollution by expanding the available pool of domestic offsets by 40 percent compared with the House-passed climate bill authored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). It does not specify how pollution allowances would be allocated, which is sure to be a key battle as the bill moves forward.

"The Senate bill, authored by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), has a mix of provisions targeted at both liberals and conservatives. It calls for cutting the nation's emissions 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 -- deeper reductions than in the House bill. It is also deficit-neutral and would make carbon offsets more affordable."

"By remaining silent on that and other issues, the proposal effectively postpones for weeks many of the toughest questions associated with climate legislation, as senators wade deeper into the debate over health-care legislation," add the Wall Street Journal's Ian Talley and Stephen Power.

"Administration officials have said they would like to get a climate bill signed into law before an international summit on climate change in December. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has said any chamber vote may wait until next year…

"Republicans on Tuesday warned Ms. Boxer against publishing her proposal without specifying how emissions permits would be allocated. Without such details, they said, it would be impossible to gauge the bill's economic impact."

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