Reid is walking a fine line with the public option. He has attempted to appease all sides by offering a public option plan in an insurance exchange, yet it would be one that's only open to the uninsured and which states would have the option to opt out of. Nevertheless, he could lose votes of his own party members and that of the lone Republican who sided with the Democrats, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who has repeatedly said she does not want to see a public option in the final bill.
Lieberman has said he would filibuster with the GOP if a public option was included, and today he said it was a "foot in the door" to a single payer, government-run health care system.
"I think it would be wrong and terrible for our country," Lieberman told reporters Friday. "I think it would result in worse health care, more expensive health care. ... I think the better political compromise is to get the public option out."
The House bill, passed in early November, offers a public option, although the Congressional Budget Office forecasted that premiums for it would be more expensive than for policies sold by private firms.
"This is a philosophical difference so it is not easily compromised," Collins, a moderate Republican, told reporters Friday.
Abortion continues as a hot topic as Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., prepares to offer an amendment next week with strict abortion restrictions, similar to the Stupak amendment that passed in the House health care bill. The current language in the Reid bill restricts the use of public funds for abortion services but Nelson wants to take the restrictions beyond that.
Despite the liberal outrage over his abortion proposals, the moderate Democrat has threatened to reject the final bill if it is not included, putting an all-important 60-vote count in jeopardy.
"At the end of the day we need Senator Nelson's vote. We still don't have a promise of a vote from the Republican side, so we would need his vote," Durbin said Friday.
The House bill includes an amendment by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that would not only cut federal funding for abortion-related services, but limit access to abortions for people who would receive federal subsidies and would have to buy insurance through a health insurance exchange.
One of the ways to pay for the Senate legislation, which would cost $849 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would be through cuts in Medicare and cost savings.
Senators on Friday continued to debate the proposed cuts to Medicare.
Democrats defeated on Thursday a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to shelve the legislation until lawmakers find a way to fund it other than by cuts in Medicare. But lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal by Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., that the bill cannot restrict current Medicare benefits in the future, while at the same time leaving more than $400 billion in Medicare cost savings.
Republicans assailed the measure, calling it a sham.
"Seniors do not want senators fooling with Medicare. They want us to fix it, to strengthen it, to preserve it for future generations, not raid it like a giant piggy bank in order to create some entirely new government program," Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. "Yesterday's vote was particularly distressing for the nearly 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage."