Senate Democrats Reach ‘Broad Agreement,’ Reid Says

Posted December 8, 2009 at 7:38pm

Senate Democrats have a “broad agreement— on controversial elements of their health care reform bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday evening.

Reid (D-Nev.) indicated the agreement could bring the legislation’s supporters closer to the votes needed to beat back a filibuster on the bill and move to final passage.

The agreement came after six days of high-pressure Senate negotiations among five Democratic centrists and five Democratic liberals over how to change the public health insurance option in the Senate bill.

“Tonight we’ve overcome a real problem that we had,— Reid told reporters. “I think it’s fair to say that the debate to this stage has been portrayed as a very divisive one and many have assumed that people of different perspectives can’t come together. And I think that what we were able to work out the last few days, which culminated tonight, belies that fact. We have a broad agreement.—

Reid declined to provide details until the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to provide an official cost estimate. Reid said CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told him that if he disclosed the substance of the agreement, the CBO would be forced to make the official score public before Reid has a chance to review or tweak the proposal.

Reid also disputed news reports saying the public option has been eliminated as part of the agreement. “It’s not true. Everyone understand that,— he said. “What you’ve heard to this point you could be surprised what we’ve sent to CBO.—

Previously, Senators in the group had said they were exploring a proposal that would not include a public option but that would allow the Office of Personnel Management to negotiate with private insurers who want to offer coverage to the uninsured and small businesses who participate in government-sponsored insurance exchanges. The group has also been looking at expansions of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as tighter regulations on insurance companies.

Although members of the group studiously avoiding saying they had a deal, the tone was unmistakably upbeat.

“We’ve made a lot of progress. There’s a lot of agreement, and we’ve decided to take the next step and ask CBO to score what we’ve been discussing,— said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a centrist member of the group.

Carper said they hope to hear back from the CBO by the end of the week.

It was not clear whether all 10 members of the group had signed off on the deal. Reid noted, “I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my Caucus.—