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Today’s Headlines – December 5, 2011

Good morning! Here’s your early morning headlines to get you going:

The Washington Post: Congress Faces Pivotal Week On Stimulus, Spending Measures
Monday begins a pivotal week in Congress, the last opportunity this year to pass some kind of economic stimulus package to boost the ailing economy. This will also be a decisive moment for legislation to keep the federal government running on a leaner budget for the rest of the fiscal year. … Reid and Boehner are probably headed for a final negotiation on the payroll tax that will initiate a two-track process for the legislation, which the leaders say must pass before Christmas. Along with the tax holiday, leaders are considering attaching an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a measure to adjust Medicare payments to doctors — all of which, according to Boehner, will need accompanying spending cuts to make the package deficit-neutral (Kane, 12/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Hurdle For Health-Law Suit
The woman chosen to represent the legal challenge to the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul filed for bankruptcy in September after her business failed, a move that could pose problems for the high-profile lawsuit. … The suit, brought by 26 states and joined by the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business lobby group, is set to be heard by the Supreme Court next year. It relies in part on the story of Mary Brown, an auto-repair-shop owner who argued in court filings she would have had to divert funds from her business to comply with the law’s requirement that, beginning in 2014, most Americans obtain coverage or pay a penalty. … Without owning a business, it could be harder for Ms. Brown to argue she is harmed by the legislation. Meanwhile, her recent financial woes suggest the possibility she would be exempt from penalties for noncompliance with the individual mandate. That raises questions about whether the suit can be based on her experience (Maltby, O’Connell and Bravin, 12/5).

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The Wall Street Journal: Access To Doctors Varies Widely Across Neighborhoods
A new report that offers the most comprehensive snapshot of New Yorkers’ access to primary-care services to date finds that the availability and use of medical services varies strikingly within neighborhoods across the five boroughs, particularly with primary care (Wang, 12/5).

The New York Times: Anti-Abortion Groups Are Split On Legal Tactics
A widening and emotional rift over legal tactics has split the anti-abortion movement, with its longtime leaders facing a Tea Party-like insurrection from many grass-roots activists who are impatient with the pace of change (Eckholm, 12/4).

NPR: Cutting Retiree Benefits A Sore Subject For Military
Bean counters at the Pentagon are working long hours to figure out how to cut close to a trillion dollars from the Department of Defense budget over the next 10 years. … Part of the defense budget usually protected from budget cuts is personnel costs: mainly health care and retirement benefits. While Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said everything’s on the table, cutting benefits for troops is not an easy sell (12/4).

Los Angeles Times: Extended U.S. Oversight Sought For 2 California Mental Hospitals
The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a judge to extend federal oversight of two state mental hospitals, saying the facilities have failed to comply with critical provisions of a sweeping consent judgment imposed 5 1/2 years ago (Romney and Hoeffel, 12/4).