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Strategy Memo: D-Day In The Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee will finally vote today on Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) $829 billion health care bill, which is expected to pass. Up next is meshing it with the HELP Committee bill passed nearly three months ago.

On the chamber floors, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, while the House takes up a number of suspension bills, including one that expresses support for students to learn about Christopher Columbus.

The White House will certainly be watching the Finance Committee vote. President Obama has a busy schedule of his own, though, starting with morning briefings and a meeting with senior advisers and Vice President Biden. Later, he welcomes Spain President Zapatero for a working lunch, after which the two will address the media. Then, he meets with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), potentially a swing vote on health care. Obama and Biden then meet with Defense Secretary Gates. Tonight, the White House is hosting a "Fiesta Latina," calling it "a concert celebrating Hispanic musical heritage." Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits, Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, and George Lopez are among the acts on hand.

**Health Care Vote
*"President Obama's effort to revamp the nation's $2.6 trillion health care system faces a critical vote Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee that sets the stage for the next series of arduous negotiations Congress must take to finish a health care bill this year. Sen. Max Baucus, the committee chairman, says he's got the votes to approve a 10-year, $829-billion plan that would increase the number of insured Americans, from 83% to 94%, without increasing the deficit," USA Today reports.

*"With few, if any, Republicans expected to support the bill ... Democrats have already begun their own internal negotiations aimed at reconciling the various measures passed by House and Senate committees. As part of that exercise, lawmakers are reviving ideas that had been discarded, including a new approach to a government insurance plan that appears to be gaining support with party moderates," Washington Post reports.

*"A proposed tax on high-cost, or 'Cadillac,' health insurance plans has touched off a fierce clash between the Senate and the House as they wrestle over how to pay for legislation that would provide health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans," New York Times reports.

*Chicago Tribune: "Democrats and their allies scrambled on Monday to knock down a new industry-funded study forecasting that Senate legislation, over time, will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical policy. "Distorted and flawed," said White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass. "Fundamentally dishonest," said AARP's senior policy strategist, John Rother. "A hatchet job," said a spokesman for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont."

However, Politico reports, "not only did the report land many months into the debate -- with Democrats on the cusp of passing bills through five committees -- it infuriated some of the very people the industry group hoped to influence."

*"Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) is risking a shot at becoming the top Republican on an influential Senate committee by backing Democratic healthcare legislation, according to senators on the panel. A Senate Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said Republicans on the panel are threatening to vote against Snowe, who is in line for the senior GOP post that is about to come open," The Hill reports.

**Congress
*Washington Times: "The surprise endorsement of climate-change legislation" by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) "has jump-started the languishing proposal but also has raised the prospect that it will include two major items that environmentalists dislike: more nuclear power and more offshore oil drilling."

**President Obama
*Washington Post reports that "in an unannounced move, the White House has also authorized -- and the Pentagon is deploying -- at least 13,000 troops" beyond the 21,000 he authorized shortly after he took office.

*The New York Times looks at the roles of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the Afghanistan debate.

*AP's Ben Feller does a fun piece on Obama's most-used phrases.

*AP's Phil Elliott is the latest to examine the political nature of the president's travels. A review finds that "three of every four official trips Obama and his key lieutenants made in his first seven months in office were to the 28 states Obama won. Add trips to Missouri and Montana -- both of which Obama narrowly lost -- and almost 80 percent of the administration's official domestic travel has been concentrated in states likely to be key to Obama's re-election effort in 2012."

*We're not sure we believe it, but Anne Kornblut reports on Clinton seeming to shut the door on another presidential run. "It remains to be seen whether Clinton's flat denial is enough to permanently put to rest questions about her future. Other political figures have ruled out a campaign only to reverse themselves, as Obama did after declaring in 2006 that he would not run for president in 2008."

**Fundraising
*Mike Castle raised just $57,000 in the last quarter, but was holding back in fundraising before making the decision to run for Senate. The News Journal reports that he had a six-figure fundraising week after jumping in.

*The Hill posts a fundraising update for various races.

*Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), rising as a target for the GOP, raised $1.2 million in the last quarter, and has $4.1 million in the bank.

*Kendrick Meek raised $800,000 as some raise questions about his Florida Senate campaign's viability.

**Campaign Stuff
*New this morning: check out the new GOP.com, featuring a pop-up Michael Steele.

*Des Monies Register's Beaumont wonders if 2012 hopefuls are paying less attention to Iowa. "The relative quiet now could signal a fateful shift for Iowa: Republicans less identified with the right wing of the party might think they can win the nomination without betting it all on the Iowa caucuses."

*Tim Pawlenty is bringing in the big names for his campaign-in-waiting, The Hill reports.

*GOP's (not so) secret weapon in 2010? Attack Pelosi, L.A. Times reports.

*Rory Reid will officially kick off his Nevada gubernatorial run this week, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports.

*Black Republicans say this is their year, FOX News reports.

*The Hill's Blake also looks at the effect gubernatorial races will have on the down-ballot Senate and House races. And Roll Call's Toeplitz does as well.

*Is Charlie Crist worried about straw polls now?

**Pop Culture Alert: No one knows who Tom DeLay is and he may have hurt viewership for this season of "Dancing with the Stars," which is suffering its lowest ratings in four years, L.A. Times reports.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad