Senate in holding pattern as Reid tries to cobble together health bill 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was still hoping to complete a health care overhaul by the end of the year, but time is running out and members of the Democratic caucus say he has all but ruled out debate beginning this week.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told reporters that Reid promised "days -- not a day or two" for lawmakers to review the yet-to-be-seen bill before attempting to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle needed to bring the legislation to the Senate floor.

When asked whether debate on the bill would have to wait until next week, Casey told The Examiner, "That would be an accurate assessment. That was the implication considering the time we will spend reviewing what he is presenting."

Reid said Tuesday that he was waiting for a cost analysis of his bill from the Congressional Budget Office and was expecting to get it "very soon."

"As soon as we get the bill, we'll share it with everyone," Reid said.

The Senate was scheduled to adjourn Friday for the weeklong Thanksgiving recess, but Reid has left open the possibility that the chamber will work Saturday and even into next week in an effort to get moving on the health care bill.

Republicans and many Democrats are demanding several weeks to amend and debate the legislation. When the Senate returns from the planned Thanksgiving recess, there will be less than five weeks left in the session, including a likely Christmas break.

At a closed-door meeting with Democrats, Reid revealed few details about what was in the bill, according to those who attended, but according to Casey, Reid said the information could arrive from the CBO "within minutes or days."

Reid told reporters that when people finally saw the bill, they would be "impressed."

"Of all the bills we've seen, it'll be the best," Reid said. "It saves more money, is more protective of Medicare and is a bill that's good for the American people."

Republicans pointed to polls showing opposition among voters to the Democratic health care plan, particularly among independents, and they accused Democratic leaders of ignoring the will of the people. They said Democrats were trying to rush legislation because public support was quickly fading.

"It's interesting that independents oppose it by 2-to-1, and independents, of course, are kind of the bellwether that have determined who wins and loses elections over the last several elections," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. "I, too, am perplexed about why in the face of this public opinion, the Democrats would be so bent on moving forward quickly."

Reid accused Republicans of "lining up against the health care needs of the American people to protect insurance companies," by threatening to block debate on the bill.

"The only thing that is slowing things down is Senator Reid, who has not been able to produce a bill yet," said Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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