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Other News: Senate Health Bill Estimated at $849B

November 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: And, in other news today, Senate Democratic leaders got the word on how much their health care bill would cost: $849 billion over 10 years. It was widely reported Majority Leader Reid received the estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. The reports said the bill would insure 31 million Americans who don’t have coverage now.

Senator Robert Byrd marked a milestone today. He became the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress ever. The West Virginia Democrat has spent 56 years, 320 days serving first in the House and then in the Senate. During that career, he’s cast more than 18,000 votes and witnessed the election of 11 presidents. Byrd spoke on the Senate floor this afternoon.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD, D-W.Va.: And I am grateful, simply grateful, to an almighty God for having had an opportunity to serve my state of West Virginia and to serve our great nation.

JIM LEHRER: Byrd turns 92 on Friday, and he’s had a series of health problems. But he said today he looks forward to serving another 56 years.

Iraq`s plans for January elections have run into new trouble. The Sunni Arab vice president vetoed part of a newly adopted law for organizing the vote. He said he wants more seats in parliament allocated to Iraqis living abroad. And Kurdish lawmakers vowed to boycott the election unless they’re given more seats.

Iran has made its strongest statement yet against a U.N. proposal on its nuclear program. The foreign minister said today Iran will not export enriched uranium to other nations for processing. The goal was to cut into Iran’s stockpile. After a year, the uranium would be sent back as fuel rods, which cannot easily be used to make weapons.

President Obama arrived in South Korea today, after a three-day visit to China. It will be the final stop on his weeklong tour of Asia. Hours before Mr. Obama arrived, police in riot gear confronted dozens of anti-war demonstrators. They had gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. The president’s agenda in Seoul was expected to include trade talks and North Korea’s nuclear program.

In U.S. economic news, housing stocks plunged more than 10 percent in October. That report from the Commerce Department stifled any chances for another rally on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11 points, to close at 10,426. The Nasdaq fell 10 points, to close at 2,193.