(CNN) - By a lopsided vote of 406 to 19, the House of Representatives has voted to repeal a law that protects health insurance companies from federal antitrust prosecution. Backers of repealing the exemption say it would inject new competition into the health insurance industry and reduce premiums, but its prospects of passing the Senate are uncertain.
Fact Check: Would eliminating health insurance companies' antitrust protections cut premiums?
(Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump)
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/24/art.dodd.file.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Chris Dodd is one senator adding his voice to the debate over the White House health care summit, a popular topic Wednesday in Washington."]Washington (CNN) - The day before the White House's bipartisan summit on health care reform, there didn't appear to be much mood for compromise on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Chris Dodd, a key author of the Senate health care bill, told reporters flatly Wednesday that if Republicans continue to demand that Democrats scrap their health care proposals and start over, "then there's nothing to talk about."
"If you expect me to start all over on this, there's really not much point in this, 'cause we're not going to start over," Dodd said.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell argued that's exactly what Republicans want.
Washington (CNN) - As politicians ramp up efforts aimed at trying to forge a consensus on health care reform, there's more evidence of just how intense the activity is behind the scenes at trying to influence the outcome.
More than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists in 2009 whose work was aimed at the issue, according to a new study from the Center for Public Integrity, an organization which tracks lobbying and spending. That translates to 8 health care lobbyists for each member of Congress.
Among those who registered to lobby in an attempt to help determine the contents of a health care bill included 207 hospitals, 105 insurance companies, 85 manufacturing companies as well 745 groups of trade, advocacy and professional organizations.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/24/art.palin.10.9.jpg caption="A top Palin aide stepped down Wednesday."]Washington (CNN) - Sarah Palin's spokeswoman Meg Stapleton, a close adviser to the former Alaska governor who developed a rocky relationship with other Republicans and members of the media, has resigned, two sources close to Palin confirmed Wednesday to CNN.
Stapleton, a spokesperson for the former governor since 2006, cited the need to spend more time with her husband and young daughter. In a statement first reported by Politico, Stapleton explained that serving Palin "has been an honor" but said it is time to "refocus my priorities."
But ever since Palin was suddenly elevated to the national stage in August 2008, Palin insiders, members of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign and other Republicans sympathetic to the former governor have grumbled privately about Stapleton's ability to handle the increasingly monumental task of advising Palin, a global political celebrity whose every word is dissected and analyzed by pundits, celebrity magazines and the blogosphere.
Members of the political press corps have also long been frustrated with Stapleton, who was the primary conduit between Palin and members of the media since the end of the 2008 presidential race, but rarely responded to phone calls or e-mails. When Stapleton did, they were often terse or combative.
She and Palin had previously spoken about resigning, but Stapleton informed SarahPAC staffers of her decision by e-mail last week.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/24/art.getty.lieberman.jpg caption="The CNN Fact Check Desk takes a look at Sen. Lieberman's record on gay rights legislation."]
CNN – Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, announced Monday that he will be the main sponsor of a bill calling for the repeal of the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The policy requires gay and lesbian service members to stay quiet about their sexual orientation or risk expulsion. Commanding officers are also prohibited from asking subordinates about their orientation. Since the law was passed in 1993, more than 13,000 otherwise qualified service men and women have been discharged.
In a statement on his Web site, Lieberman writes that he would "be proud" to sponsor a bill to allow "patriotic gay Americans to defend our national security." The senator also writes that he has opposed the current policy since its inception in 1993. Lieberman has said the legislation will be introduced next week.
The CNN Fact Check Desk wondered whether Lieberman really has opposed the current policy since its inception. We also wanted to take a look at Lieberman's record on gay rights legislation.
Washington (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich apparently doesn't hold Capitol Hill staffers in high esteem. Or at least the ones writing health care legislation these days.
Gingrich, discussing the Obama administration's health care plans during remarks to the Atlanta Press Club on Wednesday, said "no one is smart enough" to write a comprehensive health care bill.
"It's not possible to write a comprehensive bill that that makes sense, because nobody understands the system," he said. Gingrich claimed that the White House and congressional Democrats are writing their health care bills in secret, something he called "suicidal hubris."
He went on to ridicule the men and women who work in the halls of Congress, where he served as a congressman from Georgia for two decades.
"Of course it's the nature of the modern Congress, which hires lots of nice young staffers who have never had a real job, who spent their entire life being arrogant to visitors from back home, who end up thinking they know a lot because they stay up until 3 o'clock working on a word processor, and who write legislation as though they have some contact with reality," he said, eliciting laughter.
Looking ahead to Thursday's much-anticipated health care summit in Washington, Gingrich predicted that "very little" will come out of the event, which he described as "a public relations dance for the purpose of setting up a last desperate effort to pass a bill through reconciliation," the budget process by which Democrats could pass a bill without having to break a potential filibuster by Republicans.
Washington (CNN) - The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to repeal the antitrust exemption currently granted to health insurance companies.
The vote was 406-19 to repeal the exemption, which has been in place since the end of World War II. The 19 who voted against the repeal are all Republicans.
Liberal Democrats have said a repeal would help inject new competition into the health care industry while reducing consumer costs.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday that President Barack Obama strongly supports the repeal. "At its core, health reform is all about ensuring that American families and businesses have more choices, benefit from more competition and have greater control over their own health care," Gibbs said.
"Repealing this exemption is an important part of that effort.
Gibbs said the president is not seeking repeal of the exemption in lieu of broader changes to the insurance market. "This is a complementary step along the way," he told reporters.
The debate in the House on Wednesday included a colorful moment between Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, and Republicans.
Washington (CNN) -House Republicans will have a truth squad standing by to fact check during Thursday's televised bipartisan White House health care summit, House Minority Leader John Boehner announced Wednesday. And Boehner's truth squad has an unusual characteristic – more than half of the fact-checking team is made up of doctors.
Here's a list of the House GOP doctors who will be standing by Thursday:
Dr. Paul Broun, R-Georgia
Dr. Michael Burgess, R-Texas
Dr. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
Dr. John Fleming, R-Louisiana
Dr. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia
Dr. Parker Griffith, R-Alabama
Dr. Tim Murphy, R-Pennsylvania
Dr. Tom Price, R-Georgia
Dr. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee
In addition to these 9 M.D.'s, Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Louisiana, will be part of the group representing House Republicans at the White House meeting.
On the Senate side, the GOP is also sending two more doctors to meet with President Obama: Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and John Barrasso, R-Wyoming.
Since mid 2009, Coburn and Barrasso have been hosting "The Senate Doctors Show," a twice weekly health care reform Webcast where the two lawmakers take questions submitted by the public.
Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/20/art.brownshake0120.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, voted Wednesday for the Senate jobs bill."]
Washington (CNN) - Sen. Scott Brown's vote Wednesday for the Democratic-backed $15 billion jobs bill is a sign that he's showcasing a campaign pledge to bring an independent mind to Washington, a Senate analyst said.
"I think this shows independence," said Brian Darling, director of Senate relations for the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. "A $15 billion jobs bill is an important vote, but it's not going to be one of the more important votes that they are going to have this year."
Brown, who received widespread support from conservatives and Republicans, was also able to win over independent voters and Democrats in the solidly blue state.
The Senate voted 70-28 to approve the bill, which would give businesses tax breaks for hiring the unemployed and states more money for infrastructure projects, among other things.
Brown joined 12 other Republicans in crossing the aisle to support the bill. One Democrat - Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska - bucked his party and voted against it. It now moves to the House, which may take it up as soon as Friday, a House Democratic aide said.
Throughout his campaign to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in the Senate, Brown indicated that he was an independent thinker whose main task was to represent the people of Massachusetts - and not get involved in congressional politics.
Follow Ed Hornick on Twitter: @HornickCNN