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This Week In Congress - November 20, 2009

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By Elizabeth Wynne Johnson Capitol News Connection

SCRIPT:

Early on, Republican Senators like John McCain were all stoic resolve and resignation on the health care bill...

McCain: The majority leader is now corralling the final three Democrats...sure he'll get...in order to move forward.

Things would get more complicated by week's end. But before that...

Senator Robert Byrd broke a record on Wednesday. The 92-year old Democrat has a history that is as complex as it is long. As a young man in the South, Byrd once burned crosses with the Ku Klux Klan.

He lived on to support Barack Obama for President.

Byrd: My only regret...[sniffs] is that my dear wife, Irma, is not here to enjoy this moment with me...

After the shooting rampage earlier this month at Fort Hood, Senator Joe Lieberman decided to launch a probe. The administration has its own investigation underway.

Lieberman: But that does not mean that the rest of us, including the Senate Committee on Homeland Security can just sit back and watch.

Lieberman said his committee's inquiry would focus on whether the government could have done more to prevent the massacre. At the hearing on Thursday, ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine drew parallels between Fort Hood and intelligence failures before the September 11th terror attacks.

Collins: If you look at Maj. Hasan's...there are warning signs galore.

Lieberman's critics, including the White House, let it be known they'd prefer Congress wait. Not the first time Lieberman has irked leading democrats. And certainly not the last.

Speaking of the Senate health care bill...The long-awaited cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office finally came out. Just shy of 850 billion over ten years. Democrats who support the bill say it reduces the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade.

Mukowski: But then you have Republicans stand up and say when you actually take into account $2.5 trillion.

That's Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska.

Mukowski: So the American public is saying, well, which is it? What's real? How much is this costing me?

Good question. According to Democrat Kent Conrad, don't look to Republicans for the answer.

Conrad: When people talk about two trillion, they're just making numbers up [snorts]. Let's use the official number... put out by the non-partisan CBO.

Bickering over budget numbers aside...abortion has become the emotional core of the health care overhaul debate. On the heels of the House vote with its groundswell of support for restrictive new language on federal funding. This week Republican Senators took aim squarely at what they hope may be the majority's Achilles heel.

Johanns: Today in the Senate we don't need 40 Democrats to stand up--we just need one.

The first big vote, the motion to proceed, takes place Saturday night.

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