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Senate Shifts Focus to Health Care Compromise

Top Senate Democrats and White House officials have turned their health reform efforts toward crafting a compromise package that can unite Democrats and avoid a GOP filibuster. Policy analysts examine the different ways a public option could take shape in Congress.

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    Senate leaders began the grueling task today of merging health care reform bills from two committees. The final product will blend of the Finance Committee version, which passed yesterday with just one Republican vote, with a version passed earlier this year by the Senate Health Committee.

    And whatever the Senate compromise is, it still must be reconciled with a more liberal version of a health care overhaul being worked on in the House. The White House dispatched Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, and other top advisers to weigh in on the meetings.

    On the Senate side, the pressure falls primarily on the shoulders of Majority Leader Harry Reid.

    SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., senate majority leader: I know Republicans will insist that we get 60 senators to agree on a way forward. I know this isn't going to be easy. But I appeal to Republicans in the Senate: Come join us. We want health care reform. We want to do it with you.

    We're going to do it with them or without them.


    Senator Reid and his colleagues have their work cut out for them. The two Senate bills have some major sticking points that divide moderate and liberal moderate Democrats within their own party.

  • Among the differences:

    The Finance Committee's bill does not include a government-run public plan that would compete with private insurers, while the Health Committee bill does. And the Finance Committee omitted a mandate that employers contribute to insure their workers, or pay a penalty, but the Senate Health Committee and all legislation being considered in the House require it.

    The Finance Committee bill also raises revenue to pay for its overhaul by taxing high-cost insurance plans, while House leaders are calling for a surtax on millionaires. Republican leaders blasted the Finance Committee bill as well today, arguing, it will be too costly.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky, senate minority leader: No matter what kind of adjustments are made to some of it, we know what core of bill will be. It will be higher premiums, higher taxes, and cuts in Medicare. That's not health care reform.

  • MAN:

    The Senate Finance bill is a dream come true for the health insurance industry.


    The fight over the public option returned to the fore today. Liberal groups launched ad campaigns demanding it.

  • MAN:

    The choice of a public health insurance option is the only insurance option is the only way to keep insurance companies honest.


    Labor unions gave their ultimatum in full-page ads that included a list of demands for their support of health care reform, top on the list: A public plan, or we will oppose it.

    The one Republican to vote for the Finance Committee measure yesterday was Maine Senator Olympia Snowe. While she doesn't support a public plan be included in the bill, she's suggested a compromise, which she calls a trigger.