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Snowe and Nelson noted that centrists want to make sure the underlying bill is acceptable to them before allowing it to come to the floor. They argued that once the measure is officially being debated, it will be difficult to secure the 60 votes necessary to strip key provisions such as a public insurance option. Sixty votes are needed to overcome a filibuster of any amendment or bill.
It would take 60 votes to remove anything. Thats the difficulty, said Snowe. So I think thats the important [thing], the whole issue of the 60 votes on the motion to proceed, because it will be very difficult to garner 60 votes to remove anything.
Snowe added, The bottom line for the centrists is we want to make sure that this process is approached, you know, in a methodical deliberate fashion, so that its not rushed in any way so that it could jeopardize the quality of the legislation that is ultimately submitted to the Congressional Budget Office.
Having a cost estimate from the CBO has been a requirement of Snowe, Nelson and other moderates before they would vote to proceed to the bill, but Reid has given them assurances that he will get that score before bringing the measure to the floor.
The difficulties of merging the bills and satisfying centrists and liberals has forced Reid to adjust his goal for presenting a final bill to the Caucus. While he had hoped to be finished with negotiations this week, senior Senate Democratic aides acknowledged Thursday that a plan would not be presented to fellow Democrats until next week at the earliest.
Plus, difficulty in getting the votes to pass a separate adjustment to Medicare doctors payments this week proved a costly distraction for Senate leaders and the White House. Additionally, Thursdays 6 p.m. negotiating session involving Reid, Baucus, Dodd and White House officials has been replaced by a Senate Democratic leadership meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama.
David M. Drucker contributed to this report.