Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BREAKING! Senate "Gang of Ten" Reach Health Care Reform Deal, PO May Be Dead

From TPM:

Health care reform may have gone from having a PO to being a POS. Time will tell.
Ten Democratic Senators emerged tonight from a long series of meetings having reached a tentative agreement on a public option compromise. None would comment on the actual provisions in the deal, saying they first want to hear back from the Congressional Budget Office, which will begin scoring the new package tomorrow.

"We've made a lot of progress," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Now, he says, Democrats will "take the next step and ask the CBO to score what we've been discussing...we don't expect them to respond to us within 24 hours. Apparently it will take a couple days."

Within the past week, the 10 liberal and conservative Democrats hashing out a compromise have discussed a number of potential alternatives to the opt-out public option in the current bill, including tighter insurance reforms, an extension of the competitive market that insures Federal employees, and, most notably, a measure that would allow certain people between the ages of 55 and 64 to pay into Medicare.

However, none of the senators speaking to reporters tonight would confirm which, if any, of these items would be part of the package going to CBO.

Lawmakers have suggested in recent days that the compromises under discussion were meant to replace the national public option that's currently in the bill. The Associated Press as the New York Times are even reporting that the public option is gone. Tonight, though, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that might not be the case. "All the things you've read in the newspapers...'the public option is gone,'--it's not true," Reid said at an impromptu press conference after tonight's meeting broke.

Reid wouldn't elaborate further--and it's worth noting that in recent days, aides and members have tried to characterize some of the ideas on the table as a form of "public option" when in fact none of them are. But it looks like we'll know definitively by the end of the week--and maybe sooner.

"I already know that all 60 senators in my caucus don't agree on every piece of the merger," Reid said. "I know that what we've sent over there to CBO--will send to them tomorrow--not everyone's going to agree on every piece that we've sent over there, but that doesn't mean that we disagree on what we've sent to them."

Emerging from the meeting, public option stalwart Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told reporters, "You're going to find nobody who's happy with everything."

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