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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

There's a bit of fakery going on with the Senate healthcare bill that's due for a vote this week.

You might ask a barista to "leave room" for a splash of cream. Well, it turns out the drafters of the Senate bill have left room to accommodate holdout senators. So they can make high-profile demands (some unrelated to healthcare), then go home and claim victory: "I know it has all these problems, but I used my muscle to make it so much better."

This'll be fun to watch, because there are more holdouts than there is room. At least 10 Republican senators have expressed reservations, and the White House and GOP leaders can only lose two. That's why our handicappers have suddenly gone from "more likely than not" to "coin flip."

Trump hinted he may play hardball, tweeting yesterday: "I cannot imagine that these very fine Republican Senators would allow the American people to suffer a broken ObamaCare any longer!"

The state of play:

  • Kickback Watch: After Axios AM reported yesterday that Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) may get some assurances on the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump in return for his vote, "Pod Save America" co-host Tommy Vietor tweeted: "If @SenDeanHeller tries to negotiate big concessions for Nevada don't forget Ben Nelson and the 'Cornhusker Kickback.'"
  • Lingo: DD Media president David Di Martino, an alumnus of former Sen. Ben Nelson, emails: "The new Cornhusker Kickback is the Desert Dole-out."
  • What else is on the menu? Sources tell us a Medicaid working group — including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Cory Gardner of Colorado — has asked for more than $40 billion over 10 years for opioid programs, up from $2 billion in the current bill.
  • The truth: They won't get that much, but there's definitely room — the amount depends on the Congressional Budget Office score, because the Senate has to match deficit reduction in the House bill.
  • Look for: historic levels of amendments, with a vote-a-rama ("a marathon of rapid-fire votes") that could extend into Saturdaymorning.
  • A top Hill source, on the giveaway to come: "I don't think there's much that can be accommodated in the base text. Vote-a-rama is another story. You can't stop senators from offering. And if it's something that can meet [the parliamentarian's] tests and get the rest of their conference, I'm sure we'll be taking a look."
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Go deeper

6 mins ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.