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Wednesday’s Headlines: Senate Reaches Deal on Health Care Public Option

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

This post was updated at 1:12pm ET.

–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday night that Democratic senators reached a resolution over a dispute on a proposed government-run health insurance plan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senate Democrats cleared an enormous hurdle Tuesday night in negotiations over a health care reform bill. The so-called “Gang of 10,” composed of five moderates and five liberal Democrats, reportedly agreed on a new proposal that would replace the controversial, government-run public option with a private, non-profit option.

The Office of Personnel Management would run the program. The OPM, which oversees health policies for federal workers, would negotiate with insurance companies to offer several national health benefit plans. The government would offer a new insurance plan if the private plans did not provide affordable coverage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not offer specific details last night. However, Politico reports that the new proposal will include a public option trigger, allow Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 to purchase Medicare and will tighten restrictions of private insurance companies. Only a handful of senators have expressed support for the plan thus far, and as many more are waiting for a report from the Congressional Budget Office on how much the legislation would cost.

The Obama administration praised the momentum. “Senators are marking great progress, and we’re pleased that they’re working together to find common ground,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director to the New York Times.

Talking Points Memo has some details on the plan, while the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” says that doctors, hospitals and insurers are opposed to offering Medicare to 55-year-olds.

The National Journal charts the crossover voters, putting Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., at the top. Support from Nelson is not guaranteed for Reid, as abortion is another major sticking point for the Democratic party. On Tuesday, the Senate rejected an amendment to tighten restrictions on federal funding for abortions. Nelson is threatening to filibuster over the issue. Which is why many, including Patricia Murphy at Politics Daily, say Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, could provide Reid with the decisive 60th vote.

We’ll have much more on the health care reform debate throughout the day and on the program this evening.

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Congress will again hold hearings over President Barack Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry visit Capitol Hill today to explain why the country should send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. More than half have of those deploying have already received their orders, and the rest will ship out after the holidays. Tuesday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Eikenberry found skepticism from some lawmakers.

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Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley won the Democratic primary in her state Tuesday, inching closer to replacing the late Edward Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. She will now face off with Republican nominee Scott Brown in January. WBUR has reaction from Coakley and an analysis of what to expect from the state election.

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The Transportation Security Administration is reeling from a major blunder that accidentally revealed closely guarded secrets on the Internet related to airport passenger screening practices. The Washington Post examines how the 93-page operating manual made its way onto the Web, creating what the TSA is calling the biggest security breach since 9/11.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly labeled Sen. Olympia Snowe as representing Washington state. Sen. Snowe represents Maine.

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