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News Wrap: Democrats Win Key Moderate’s Support for Health Bill

November 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, Senate Democrats won over a key moderate, as they try to bring health care reform to the floor. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said he would vote to begin debate on the bill. It’s estimated to cost $848 billion over 10 years.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin would not say yet if he has the 60 votes to overcome Republican opposition and bring up the bill.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-Ill.: I have only been asked 30 or 40 times, do you have the 60 votes? We’re not assuming a thing. We’re working hard to bring all Democrats together for the 60 votes necessary to proceed to this historic debate. It would be a real break if one Republican would join us and say, yes, this is an issue worth debating.

JIM LEHRER: Republican Jon Kyl charged, the Democratic bill is too expensive, and cuts Medicare and expands government too much. He said Senate Majority Leader Reid is pushing something the public does not want.

SEN. JON KYL, R-Ariz., minority whip: In view of that, it would be our hope that our more moderate colleagues on the Democratic side would respect the wishes of their constituents, rather than do the bidding of Harry Reid, because, at the end of the day, this health care legislation will impact every American in extraordinary ways, and we believe in very negative ways.

JIM LEHRER: The vote on allowing Senate debate to begin on the bill is tentatively set for tomorrow night.

The Senate Ethics Committee has admonished Senator Roland Burris for misleading statements. The Illinois Democrat fills the seat once held by President Obama, but he has given changing versions of his contacts with the man who appointed him. Governor Rod Blagojevich was later ousted over allegations he tried to sell that seat.

The U.S. and five other nations urged Iran today to reconsider a U.N. proposal on its nuclear program. The Iranian regime balked this week at shipping much of its uranium abroad for additional processing.

In Berlin, Germany, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said he still sees room for a deal.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, director general, International Atomic Energy Agency: I would hope, definitely, that we will get an agreement before the end of the year. And that is what I think, you know, a number of partners have indicated that, you know, they would like to give Iran an opportunity to engage until the end of the year. I would hate to see that — that we are moving back to sanctions

JIM LEHRER: In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. has not given up hopes of an agreement.

In Afghanistan, a suicide bomber killed 16 people, wounded at least 23 more. The attacker blew himself up on a motorcycle in the western city of Farah. It happened 50 yards from the provincial governor’s compound. Separately, a lawmaker with close ties to President Karzai escaped being killed when his convoy was bombed.

Officials in Pakistan reported a missile strike by an unmanned U.S. drone killed eight militants. The target was a Taliban compound in the northwest. The strike came as Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani met with visiting CIA Director Leon Panetta. Gilani warned an influx of U.S. troops in Afghanistan could push more insurgents across the border to Pakistan.

The worst flooding in memory engulfed parts of Britain today. The heaviest rain ever recorded in Northern England fell on the Lake District, especially around the town of Cockermouth.

We have a report from Jane Deith of Independent Television News.

JANE DEITH: This wasn’t worst-case scenario. This was beyond what anyone in Cockermouth could believe, hundreds of people lifted off the roofs of their homes. Down below, the water rose to eight feet. It was surging through streets and houses at 20 knots, making it too dangerous for boats to get to people.

Over near the coast, in Workington, policeman Bill Barker was working on a bridge over the River Derwent when the bridge buckled and he was swept away. It came after a desperate and frightening night. Here in Cockermouth, three RAF helicopters were working in the pitch black and 90-mile-an-hour winds, while lifeboats and mountain rescue teams reached people where they could.

Even now, 24 hours after the main drama, the river is still absolutely tearing through the town. And you can imagine how frightening it would have been when it poured over that wall and went into people’s houses at chest height. It is easy to understand why many of them had to be rescued from their roofs by those Sea King helicopters. The government has promised Cumbria it will help pay for the cleanup.

HILARY BENN M.P., minister for the environment, Great Britain: Above a certain threshold, we pick up 90 percent of the cost of that. So, it depends. It’s early days yet, because we’re not going to know exactly how much the cost will be until the floodwaters recede and people can really assess the damage. But we have activated it today, in recognition of the seriousness of this emergency.

JANE DEITH: And this emergency isn’t over. The RAF was still trying to reach people who were trapped this afternoon. And hanging over everyone is the awful thought Cockermouth could have to go through all this again. More heavy rain is forecast tonight.

JIM LEHRER: There was also widespread flooding in Scotland and Ireland.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 14 points, to close at 10,318. The Nasdaq fell more than 10 points, to close at 2,146. For the week, the Dow gained half-a-percent, the Nasdaq fell 1 percent.