Public Option No More? Obama Throws Weight Behind New Health Care Deal

Meanwhile, liberal groups expressed frustration with the deal. Liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org urged its members to sign a petition calling on members of Congress to include "a real public health insurance option."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is spearheading health care negotiations, will stay mum on the details until he has a cost assessment from the non-partisan CBO, which is likely to come by the end of this week.

In a hastily arranged news conference Tuesday evening, Reid would only tell reporters that the 10 Democratic negotiators, which include five liberals and five conservatives, "worked through a real problem here" and "have a broad agreement" on "consensus that insures the American people win."

He would not say what's in the agreement, but added that reports that the public option are gone are "not true" and people "will be surprised by what we sent to CBO."

"Not everyone is going to agree on every piece we sent over, but that doesn't mean we don't agree on what we sent over," Reid said.

Even if the secret deal were to get broad support and pass, Democrats will still have to overcome hurdles in ironing out the differences between the Senate and House bills -- the latter includes the option of a government-run insurance program.

Democratic leaders will also have to appease their party members who wanted a strong public option included in the legislation.

Most Republicans oppose the option of a government-sponsored health insurance plan altogether, and have focused their efforts chiefly on targeting Medicare cuts in the Senate bill. The secrecy of the deal and the closed-door negotiations that led to it could also lend weight to transparency concerns that Republicans are making.

Democrats Divided on Health Care Legislation

Republicans have offered numerous amendments to highlight that the health care overhaul effort would be paid for, in large part, by assuming future cost savings in Medicare and Medicaid.

The GOP leadership has also shifted in its arguments against Democrats' bill, with fewer calling it a "government takeover" and more dubbing it a "job killer."

"This bill is a job killer," Grassley told reporters today.

Some Republicans' argument is that the health care overhaul bill raises taxes on companies that offer high-cost insurance plans -- and thus on people who get them, medical device manufacturers, insurers and others, all while assuming Medicare cost savings. More importantly, it would require most businesses to help pay for their employees' health care, impeding their chances for expansion, according to Republicans.

"This bill is a job landslide," said Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said. "It will take new jobs and bury them under an avalanche of new regulations."

The Senate today continued debate, for the 10th straight day, on the health care legislation. With amendments on abortion and Medicaid cuts already defeated, senators today discussed the drug re-importation amendment that would allow pharmacies and pharmaceutical wholesalers to import drugs from other countries where they are cheaper, such as Canada.

The proposal, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, has broad bipartisan support but is opposed by U.S. pharmaceutical firms, which have come out in support of Democrats' health care overhaul efforts and spent millions on advertising.

Democrats on Tuesday struck down an effort by one of their own to tighten restrictions on abortion coverage.

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