* The top story tonight: Negotiators have reached a budget deal to roll back part of the sequester and replace it with an increase in discretionary spending to just over $1 trillion, compared to the $967 billion under the sequester. The total of $63 billion in sequester relief spread over two years isn’t much of an increase, but it’s a marginal improvement. Here’s Jonathan Weisman at the Times:
The $34 billion increase this year would be spread evenly between military and domestic spending, nearly erasing the impact of sequestration on the military.
That increase would be paid for in part with higher airline fees that pay for airport security and higher contributions from federal workers to their pensions. Democrats have given up their demand that the deal extend unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the month, but hope to press for an extension in a separate measure.
* Great point from Jamelle Bouie whacking Congress over this failure to extend unemployment benefits. As usual, Republicans are the villains here, but Democrats are not innocent, saying they’d vote for a deal without the extension. The failure of the American state to protect its most vulnerable citizens is every day more horrible.
* Jennifer Rubin on the cheap game Heritage Action is playing. No matter what happens in Congress, they denounce it as not conservative enough before the details are even known.
* Since the rollout flub of Healthcare.gov, new enrollments in Medicaid have far outstripped those in the Obamacare exchanges. This could augur an actuarial death spiral. But not in New York state, which finally is showing proof of concept for Obamacare:
…enrollment in the private health insurance market has surged ahead of Medicaid signups. New York has enrolled 31,362 people in its Medicaid program and 69,519 residents have signed up for private insurance plans through New York’s exchange.
Once the glitches are sorted out, Obamacare will work as advertised.
* Similar news from Kentucky, which is showing an accelerating rate of private exchange signups: “Enrollment through Kentucky’s health benefits website has grown by more than 11,000 in a 10-day period starting Thanksgiving week… nearly 4,000 people chose a new private insurance policy, a 32 percent increase.”
* Smart piece from Jonathan Cohn agreeing with Republicans that yes, Obamacare represents redistribution, and laying out just who pays and how. My only quibble here is that, per Matt Bruenig, “redistribution” is a loaded phrase which implies theft. But there is no such thing as a government-free distributive baseline, and therefore we are merely comparing different distributions, all underpinned by policy choices.
The administration’s openness to Iowa’s model is a sign of how critical the [Medicaid expansion] program is to Obamacare’s success, and may be a harbinger of future deals with Republican governors.
* Ed Kilgore worries that this Iowa news might be the end of Medicaid as we know it. So far, it doesn’t look too bad. What this does demonstrate, though, is how fundamentally conservative the Obamacare model is. Most of its reforms are accomplished through use of the private sector in some way.
* And Sarah Kliff has a balanced assessment of what HHS really gave to Iowa in agreeing to much of its request.
* Good point from Francis Wilkinson: There will never be a Republican alternative to Obamacare. The real proof came during the Bush administration, when Republicans held all three branches of government but didn’t even talk about universal coverage.
* The Volcker rule is out! Here is a good summary. It bars regular commercial banks from trading for profit, or owning hedge funds or private equity firms. The real action on this is whether it will survive the inevitable court challenge, which is probably being written as we speak. Luckily, today Patricia Millet was confirmed to the DC Circuit Court, so the odds are getting better all the time.
* Grim polling numbers for the President from Quinnipiac today: his approval rating is down to 38 percent, and Republicans are now ahead on the generic Congressional ballot. As Obamacare is patched up, though, I suspect this will turn around. Quinnipiac also found that voters favor increasing the minimum wage by more than two to one.
* However, new numbers from Pew show the president regaining some approval ground from last month, and that he is still more trusted on health care than Republican leaders.
* Oh, and by the way: “Life on Earth is already in old age.”