ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from his weekly powwow with Democrats saying he could still have a health reform bill on the President’s desk this year. “The question is, is it possible to meet the goal by the end the year passing this bill? The answer is yes,”he told reporters. Reid also said the debate on the floor will continue, but only until he thinks he can pass the bill off the floor. Asked when he would file cloture on the bill, and start the process to end debate, he said, “When will you file cloture?”a reporter asked. “Soon as I can,”he said. Reid was asked about his comparison of people who are filibustering the health reform bill (modern-day Republicans) with people who slowed efforts to end slavery, give women the right to vote, and pass the Civil Rights Act (from both parties). “Well, I think the point is quite clear by this point that at pivotal points in American history, the tactics of distortion, delay have certainly been present,”said Reid. “They’ve been use to stop progress. That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what’s happening here. It’s very clear. That’s a point I made — no more, no less. Anyone who willingly distorts my comments is only proving my point.” Reid also quoted Henry Clay, the 19th Century Kentucky Whig Senator, and one of the Senate’s great debaters, in urging compromise among Democrats on the health reform bill. “The purpose of legislation is to build consensus,”Reid said. “Henry Clay said it best, that’s what legislation is all about, is arriving at a consensus, and that’s what we’re doing. Clay opposed slavery, but is perhaps most famous for, as Speaker of the House, engineering the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which brought one free and one slave state to the union, and banned slavery North of Arkansas in the Louisiana Purchase territory. Republicans, emerging from their party meeting, said Reid’s historical perspective shows he is desperate to create support for Democrats’ bill. ”It appears as if the strongest argument the Democrats are making on this health care bill is that they need to make history — they need to make history,”said Sen. Mitch McConnell, who holds Clay’s Kentucky Senate seat and is Senate Minority Leader. “That’s the comment — kind of comment you make when all the poll data indicates that the American people don’t want us to pass this bill.” Democrats are still ironing out what exactly will be in their final Senate bill – the will likely file a large, substitute amendment, known as a managers amendment, when 10 Democrats, moderates and progressives, find accord on how to deal with the creation of a public insurance option. The current proposal to replace the public option in a health reform bill with access to a national insurance pool like the one used by federal workers and members of Congress has breathed new life into Democrats’ quest for all 60 of their members to support health. It has also robbed Republicans of one of their main talking points on health reform – opposing the public option, which they have called a bid by Democrats at a government takeover. Republicans were asked by reporters about the proposal, the details of which remain behind closed doors with Democrats. Well, it’s just another new idea that’s popped up here in an effort to try to get all the — as one wag used to say — all the frogs in the wheelbarrow,”said McConnell of the proposal, which has not yet been made public. Republicans largely agree with the idea of offering a national insurance pool and plans like those they get to people who don’t currently have insurance. But they will likely oppose Democrats proposal because it seeks to mollify liberal Democrats who wanted a public option by expanding eligibility for Medicare. The deal could also perhaps include an expansion of Medicaid beyond what is already in Democrats bills. The Medicaid expansion would be particularly “Many Republicans have already supported the idea of giving all Americans the same choices that federal employees now have in health insurance,”said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. But that is only one element of Democrats’ negotiations. “What we are seeing proposed, as I understand it, is a huge expansion of Medicare which is riddled with fraud, which in my state, 42 percent of patients can’t find a doctor to treat them at Medicare low payment rates. And then we see this huge suggestion of expansion of Medicaid, which in my state alone will result in a $24 billion unfunded mandate,”said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex.