Senate Democrats reportedly have reached a compromise on the health care reform bill that should allow it to make its way through the Senate, CNN reports:
U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, the lone Democratic holdout on the Senate health care reform bill, has reached an agreement with Democratic leaders, several Democratic senators said Saturday on Capitol Hill.
Nelson, a social conservative from Nebraska who opposes abortion, does not want taxpayer funds to pay for that medical procedure.
His vote is crucial for Democrats, who want to avoid a GOP filibuster.
The senators were said to be caucusing on the terms of the agreement.
Asked whether he was on board with it, Nelson replied, “Yeah.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who was one of the key senators involved in the talks with Nelson, confirmed that she’s satisfied that the language of the agreement achieves its goal.
“My goal was to try to reach some compromise so we could move forward on health care, where the basic premise was we could separate federal funds from private funds. I think we achieved that.”
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, agreed, saying the deal follows the principles of the Hyde amendment, which prevents federal funds from being used for abortions.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a series of meetings with Mr. Nelson lasting late into Friday night, as a snowstorm rolled into Washington and started dumping what was expected to be more than a foot of snow on the capital.
Democrats released Saturday a broader amendment to the bill, which includes proposals designed to boost support for small businesses, toughen federal regulatory oversight of insurers, and strengthen provisions intended to curb the rapid growth of health care costs.
Lawmakers were awaiting a formal estimate of the bill’s cost from the Congressional Budget Office. An estimate of an earlier version by the CBO found that the bill would reduce the budget deficit by $130 billion over the next decade and extend coverage to some 30 million Americans.
Congressional aides said those numbers will remain similar after the changes. Republicans say the numbers are unrealistic, and they call the new programs in the bill too expensive. Among other things, the legislation includes a expansion of Medicaid, the federal state health program for the poor, and new tax subsidies to help low- and middle-income Americans purchase insurance.
In the final dealing, Mr. Nelson won a tightening of rules designed to ensure federal funds aren’t used to finance insurance coverage of abortion procedures. He also secured a limited exemption for nonprofits from a proposed tax on the insurance industry, congressional aides said. Under the proposal, only nonprofits that devote a high percentage of revenue to spending on health services would be exempt from the levy.
CNN, in its broadcast newscast, noted that Nelson has stressed that if the compromise he has agreed to is scissored out of the final bill that emerges from House-Senate reconcilation, he reserves the right to withdraw his support. Now the question will be: in the my-way-or-the-highway era of 21st century politics, will some groups now clamor to defeat the bill because Senate Demmies compromised to get Nelson’s support?
Meanwhile, the AP reports that Reid is now confident the bill will pass.
In his weekly You Tube-Radio address, Obama said it was time to take care of this issue and make health care reform a reality:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.