According to several sources, as many as four Democrats have told Reid that they would not support a national health plan. Those votes are crucial to Democrats who have little-to-no wiggle room in their effort to get to 60 votes.
The late afternoon negotiations, which lawmakers stress is routine to the legislative process, came amidst lingering questions over the use of a special maneuver that would allow a bill to pass along a majority vote rather than one that would require Democrats to get 60.
Key players in the Senate, however, downplayed the use of what's known as “reconciliation.” Even while it may seem an appealing way for Democrats to get around the 60-vote threshold, lawmakers caution that it would require a major—and lengthy—rewrite of the bill from both the House and Senate.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the main author of a reform bill that passed his committee with one Republican vote, said that while many roadblocks remain, it's nevertheless an imperative that a bill passes.
“I made the point that 60 votes is kind of a blessing and a curse,” he said. “The blessing side is that every one of those 60 senators knows that we must pass healthcare reform. The curse side is that it's kind of hard to get 60.”
Brown, who strongly supports a public health option, acknowledged that many hurdles remain. “There's a lot of moving parts here,” he said.
The meeting of about 10 Democrats came at the beginning of what could be a pivotal week for Reid. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to deliver its financial assessment of a bill he submitted on Wednesday, though it's unclear when. The CBO numbers would effectively allow for procedural votes to occur either on Thursday or Friday.
“I think that in the end that we get to 60 votes” on Reid's bill, Brown said.
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