Senate Enters Critical Week for Health Care Reform

BY Lea Winerman  December 14, 2009 at 3:02 PM EDT

After a weekend spent passing a $1.1 trillion spending bill, the Senate will once again take up the complex issue of health care reform Monday afternoon.

Last week, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., looked headed toward the 60 votes he needs to pass a bill, when a group of ten liberal and moderate Democrats announced a tentative compromise that would replace the public option with private, nonprofit insurance plans and an option for people ages 55-64 to buy into Medicare.

But this weekend independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a key swing vote, said he would not vote for the buy-in plan, and other moderates have expressed doubts.

According to Politico, the White House is encouraging Reid to cut a deal with Lieberman, which may mean eliminating the proposed Medicare expansion in the health reform bill, an official close to the negotiations told the news organization.

Democratic leaders must resolve this and other issues this week if they hope to pass a bill out of the Senate before Christmas, said NPR’s Julie Rovner in an interview.

Listen to Rovner’s analysis of the week ahead for health care:

“The clock really is starting to tick down,” Rovner said. “We really need to start to see some action within the next 48 to 72 hours.”