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Today’s Headlines – December 9, 2011

Happy Friday! Here are your morning headlines:

The Los Angeles Times: Boehner Defies Obama Veto Threat With New Payroll Tax Plan
The package Boehner has been compiling for more than a week was not made publicly available, but it includes the payroll tax holiday as well as an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, which also run out Dec. 31, and a routine pay rate adjustment for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Part of the problem for Republicans has been how to offset the costs of the tax cut and other measures. Republicans reject Democrats’ proposal to impose a surtax on those earning above $1 million annually (Mascaro, 12/8).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Ties Reducing Payroll Tax To Pipeline
In addition to extending the tax cut, the Boehner plan would provide doctors a 1% increase in their Medicare fees for 2012 and 2013 (Bendavid and Hook, 12/9).

For more headlines …

The Washington Post: Senate Rejects Proposals To Slash Federal Payroll Taxes
The House bill would also wrap in other legislation that both parties say Congress must consider before the end of the year, including an extension of unemployment benefits and an adjustment for two years of scheduled cuts in payments paid to Medicare providers (Helderman and Sonmez, 12/8).

Politico: John Boehner’s Last Stand On Payroll Tax Cut Extension
The speaker has tossed in a series of sweeteners to get the GOP to support the payroll tax: restarting the Keystone XL pipeline, cutting jobless benefits in half, targeting environmental rules, slicing money out of Obama’s health care law and limiting the Medicare benefits the wealthy can get. In exchange, they’ll give Obama the political victory and get out of town for the rest of 2011. But it’s a gamble. Boehner’s hope is that the Senate and Obama accept the right-leaning bill. And when they don’t — Democrats are sure to remove most of those prized items — the speaker will have to rely on enough Republicans backing a final compromise (Sherman and Raju, 12/8).

The New York Times: Republicans Unveil Plan For Payroll Tax
Pivoting to challenge President Obama and Senate Democrats, House Republicans said Thursday that they would forge ahead with a payroll tax holiday bill that includes an oil pipeline opposed by the president and that looks to changes in social programs to pay for the tax cut and added unemployment benefits (Steinhauer and Pear, 12/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Ex-Medicare Chief Takes Gloves Off
Now that he’s not running the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Donald Berwick is taking off the gloves to attack his Washington critics. … In a speech Thursday in Orlando, Fla., Dr. Berwick had particularly sharp words for those who described the 2010 health overhaul as containing “death panels.” “It is beyond cruelty to have subjected our elders, especially, to groundless fear in the pure service of political agendas,” Dr. Berwick told a health conference, … “Maybe a real death panel is a group of people who tell health care insurers that is it OK to take insurance away from people because they are sick or are at risk for becoming sick” (Adamy, 12/9).

The Washington Post: Holder Faces House Republicans Over Health-Care Law, ‘Fast and Furious’
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. clashed with congressional Republicans on Thursday, defending the Justice Department in the face of criticism of its “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking sting and its refusal to turn over documents on the health-care law adopted last year. Under exhaustive questioning from the House Judiciary Committee, Holder reiterated that his department would not provide Congress with more information about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s health-care-related role when she was President Obama’s solicitor general. Republicans are seeking internal e-mails and other documents, arguing that Kagan might have to recuse herself from the court’s decision on the health-care law if she was involved in the legislation (Markon, 12/8).

The New York Times: Obama Endorses Decision To Limit Morning-After Pill
President Obama, who took office pledging to put science ahead of politics, averted a skirmish with conservatives in the nation’s culture wars on Thursday by endorsing his health secretary’s decision to block over-the-counter sales of an after-sex contraceptive pill to girls under age 17 (Calmes and Harris, 12/8).

The Washington Post: Plan B Decision Draws Strong And Mixed Reaction
President Obama on Thursday defended his administration’s decision to block unrestricted sales of the morning-after pill as a “common-sense” parenting choice, even as women’s rights advocates condemned it as a cynical move that could provoke a damaging political backlash for the president next year (Kornblut and Aizenman, 12/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Backs ‘Plan B’ Move
President Barack Obama said Thursday he didn’t influence a controversial decision to block the Plan B emergency contraceptive from being sold to young girls without a prescription, but made clear he supports the move (Meckler and Corbett Dooren, 12/9).

USA Today: Obama Backs Restrictions On Morning-After Pill
President Obama said Thursday that he supported the Department of Health and Human Services overruling an FDA decision to allow an emergency morning-after contraceptive pill to be sold to girls younger than 17 without a prescription (Jackson and Kennedy, 12/8).

Politico: The Plan B Call: Politics Vs. Science
It wasn’t just Democrats and abortion rights groups that howled when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA on Wednesday and declared that Plan B shouldn’t be available over the counter to girls under age 17. It was medical groups, too — because in their view, the evidence is already settled that the emergency contraception is safe and effective, regardless of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine all blasted the decision (Nather, 12/8).

The New York Times: More Detail On Risk Urged For A Contraceptive Label
Labels on the popular birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin should be strengthened to include more information about the possibility that the pills could lead to greater risk of blood clots in women, an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday. The panel, which voted 21 to 5 in favor of changing the labels, stopped short of recommending that they warn that the drugs are more likely than other contraceptive pills to cause blood clots (Belluck, 12/8).

The Washington Post: Stronger Warnings Urged On Safety Of New Birth Control Pills
After a day-long hearing, two Food and Drug Administration advisory committees, meeting together, voted 15 to 11 that the benefits of the pills in preventing unwanted pregnancies outweighed the risks. But the panels voted 21 to 5 that the current labels fail to adequately warn of the dangers, and they urged the agency to require stronger admonitions (Stein, 12/8).