Washington (CNN) - The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Senate health care bill would cost $849 billion over 10 years, according to a senior Democratic source and an administration official.
The CBO projects the measure would reduce deficit by $127 billion and insure an additional 31 million Americans, according to the sources.
Ninety-four percent of Americans would be covered under the bill, the sources noted.
–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report
Update: The talking points sent by the Senate Democratic leadership to aides after the news broke stressed fiscal discipline. "(The CBO) findings will give us a great momentum as we move forward," read the memo.
"These findings will please all members of our caucus who have made fiscal discipline a priority in this debate as well as all members of our caucus who have made affordable care a priority. ... Senate Republicans who have on many occasions during this debate hailed the primacy of the CBO will have a hard time arguing with these numbers without being hypocritical."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A federal advisory board's recommendation that women in their 40s should avoid routine mammograms is not government policy and has caused "a great deal of confusion," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday.
"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer, and they still are today," Sebelius said in a statement.
"Keep doing what you have been doing for years - talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you."
Sebelius waded into the controversy over Monday's announcement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that women in their 40s should not get routine mammograms for early detection of breast cancer.
(CNN) - Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson, who have all expressed skepticism about the party's health care reform plan, were summoned to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office Wednesday to get a sneak peak at his health care bill.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Wednesday the senator invited these three moderate Democrats into his office to give them the "particulars on the bill."
All have been withholding support on voting to start debate - and the fact that Reid is giving the three their own special briefing, before the broader Democratic meeting at 5 pm Wednesday, is a signal of their power.
Assuming no Republican senator joins Democrats in voting to end debate, Reid needs all 60 senators in his party's caucus to vote in favor of a so-called "motion to proceed."
If any Democrat votes no on proceeding to debate, Reid's health care bill will go down before it starts.
Washington (CNN) - Plaudits are rolling in from both sides of the Senate aisle for U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd as the passionate and painstaking Democratic senator from West Virginia became the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress Wednesday.
On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others issued moving tributes to the larger-than-life legislator, who served six years in the House and then nearly 51 years and counting in the Senate.
The senators marveled at Byrd's milestones:
He became the only person ever elected to nine full terms in the Senate,
served in Congress for 20,774 days, cast more than 18,000 Senate votes, and is the longest-serving member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He presided over the Senate's shortest and longest continuous sessions.
He is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Senate rules and has never lost an election.
Washington (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder defended his decision Wednesday to try five suspected 9/11 terrorists in civilian court.
"We are at war and we will use every instrument of national power - civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic and others –to win," he told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong."
Holder announced last week that the suspected terrorists - including confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - will be tried in civilian court in New York City.
All five suspects have been held in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Critics of Holder's decision have argued that the suspects should be tried by a military tribunal.
(CNN) - President Obama's four-day visit to China was aimed at building deeper ties - and also spending time, albeit briefly, on family relationships.
In between his arrival in Beijing, China, on Monday and his informal dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao a few hours later, President Obama met with his half-brother Mark Obama Ndesandjo.
"We just had a big hug. ... It was very, very powerful and very, very intense, because he's my big brother," Mark Obama said.
Mark Obama, who has spent the past seven years living in southern China, recently wrote a semi-autobiographical book titled "Nairobi To Shenzhen."
In it, he claims that he was often physically abused by his father, Barack Obama Sr.
Washington (CNN) - The heads of two key congressional committees said Wednesday they are stepping up their investigation into the November 5 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I, Connecticut, told reporters on Capitol Hill that he would begin hearings Thursday focusing on what authorities knew about alleged shooter Nidal Malik Hasan before the incident.
The committee will seek to determine whether the attack could have prevented, and what it means in terms of the government's ability to defend against potential terrorist attacks within the United States.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, meanwhile, released the text of a letter he sent to the White House requesting the results of the joint investigation into the shootings now being conducted by the FBI and the Army.
(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden is downplaying news the government Web site Recovery.gov reported hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars spent on projects in congressional districts that in fact do not actually exist.
The districts don't exist, but the projects do, Biden said Tuesday night.
And the administration isn't to blame - the fault lies with the nation's educational system.
In an appearance on The Daily Show, Biden said the errors - first reported by ABC News - do not indicate unaccounted-for spending but are rather the result of 70 people who are the product of "bad civics classes."
"Every single solitary penny that got sent out there to a state, a construction company, a nonprofit had to be accounted for," Biden told host Jon Stewart. "And it all got put on Recovery.gov. What happened was, out of 130,000 people reporting in what they did with the money…70 did not know how to count."
"There was bad civics classes for those 70 people," Biden continued. "They had to fill out a form, what district are you in, and there was no such district."
Biden said checkers are now going through the reports to determine the actual districts where the money was spent.
Washington (CNN) - More than half of all adult Americans say they don't want to get the H1N1 flu vaccine, according to a new national poll.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday also indicates that the number of adults who have tried to get the vaccine but were turned away is higher than the number of adults who have gotten a swine flu shot.
CNN Radio: CNN Polling Director Keating Holland breaks down the results
According to the poll, 55 percent of adults don't want to get the swine flu vaccine, and don't plan to get a shot. Another one in five say they want to get inoculated but haven't taken any steps to do so, 14 percent want a shot and have tried to get it but have been unsuccessful. Just 7 percent have been inoculated for H1N1.
Why are more than half of all Americans shunning the vaccine?
Washington (CNN) - November and December tend to be a typically slow time for Congress as it wraps up business before a new session begins.
But not this year.
The Senate is expected to soon return to health care reform, the legislative lightning rod of 2009. Most analysts expect it to be an engaging debate.
But will Americans be paying attention as they carve the Thanksgiving turkey and shop for the holidays?
Analysts say yes - and that Americans are more tuned in than ever.
"I do think the audience for this debate will go beyond 'inside baseball,' though it won't extend beyond the already politically engaged electorate," says Frances Lee, a political scientist with the University of Maryland. "I would expect this debate to be equally engaging, though it will also be far longer."
Lee says the Senate debate is "sure to draw a big audience by the normal standards for such things."
It's a point with which Senate Historian Donald Ritchie agrees.
"I think what's been unusual about the health care debate is that the public has been following it from the very beginning," he says. "They've actually been watching it going through the committee systems, through the markup systems."