By Mark Memmott

Good morning.

It's going to be another big day in the debate over legislation to overhaul the nation's health care system.

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to give its reading today on how much the latest version of the plan costs and what its effect would be on the federal budget in years ahead. And that could start a countdown to a vote by the House on Sunday.

On Morning Edition, NPR's Julie Rovner looked at the ad wars that have heated up over the issue. As she reports, "you can tell the health care debate is reaching a critical point just by the number of ads flooding the airwaves of local and cable television":

NPR's health blog, Shots, follows the debate closely.

Other stories making headlines this morning include:

-- Morning Edition -- "Slow Election Results Delay Formation Of New Iraqi Government." NPR's Quil Lawrence reports from Baghdad. "Iraq's election commission says the prime minister's coalition has retaken the lead from his secular challenger in the preliminary tally of votes from the parliamentary elections. Partial results released yesterday based on 83 percent of the ballots from the March 7 elections gave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition back its lead in a very tight race."

Related story by the Los Angeles Times -- "Iraq's Election Adds To Sectarian Divide": "With more than 80% of the votes tallied in Iraq's parliamentary elections and the race still neck and neck, hopes that the country might move beyond its deep Shiite-Sunni divide appear to be fading in a stew of sectarian politics."

-- Philadelphia Inquirer -- " 'Jihad Jane' Said To Have Confessed," Due In Court Today: "The Montgomery County woman who calls herself "JihadJane" has confessed to the FBI about her alleged role in a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist, according to two people close to the investigation. ... LaRose, 46, whose arrest was kept quiet until related arrests last week in Ireland, is scheduled to be arraigned this morning at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia."

-- Grand Forks Herald -- "Fargo Area Wraps Up Flood Preparations": "Much of the flood protection across the region was buttoned up Wednesday, leaving many volunteers, homeowners and city leaders to wait for the crest. ... The Red River is expected to crest at 37 to 39 feet Sunday, leaving a few more days for homeowners to get ready."

Coming up today:

-- The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases figures on February consumer prices at 8:30 a.m. ET.

-- The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament gets underway.

categories: Morning Roundup

7:52 - March 18, 2010