Senate Democrats Emerge From Special Caucus With Few Details

Posted December 9, 2009 at 6:07pm

As they exited a special caucus meeting Wednesday night, Democratic Senators said the session was light on the substance of a potential compromise to the public insurance option. The meeting, called by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), was instead heavy on cheerleading, they said.Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), a participant in the group of 10 liberal and moderate Democrats who worked on the compromise plan, said Reid delivered only a very broad outline of the proposal, which is now being analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office. Senators said after the meeting that they still know very little about the plan, which is designed to break the Democratic impasse over the public insurance option.“There was no explanation,— Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. “It was sort of ‘go team go.’ You’ve been there, done that.—Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said she has concerns that the group is considering expanding Medicare, but she said those concerns are based on what she’s read in the newspaper, not on what she heard in the special caucus.“We didn’t discuss any more details,— she said.Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) declined to reveal exactly what was discussed in the caucus. But he said Democrats are further along in the process toward passing a bill than he had predicted they would be at this point, indicating he is optimistic that legislation will ultimately be approved.As for getting things done before Christmas, that’s another story.The goal of the Democratic leadership is to clear the health care reform bill off the floor before Christmas Day, if not by year’s end.“My wife and I have canceled our plans to be in Vermont for Christmas. I have to tell you that hurts,— Leahy said. “Being at home at our old farmhouse with the kids at Christmas is something we like. We just called the people that we get our Christmas trees from every year and told them to ship it down here. So, I have a feeling we’re going to be in at Christmas.—Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said he feels optimistic about the centrist-liberal plan but understands the need for secrecy now.“I feel very positive that we’re in a place here where if CBO comes back positively then we can work through some of the tweaks that need to be achieved. I think we’re on a good track,— he told reporters after the caucus. “Until we get CBO back, anything we say begins to gin up people who draw the wrong conclusions or twist it into something that it isn’t, and I don’t think that serves anybody’s purpose here.—