WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2009 -- The long health care reform debate may reach the tipping point this week. The Senate leader believes he is within a day or two of getting a filibuster-proof 60 votes.
Publicly, Harry Reid has gone silent, working the phones and, behind closed doors, trying to meld together five bills. And he is resurrecting the "public option" to compete with private insurance.
"There's nobody better at the counting votes than he is," says Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. "I think we're very close to getting the 60 votes we need to move forward," the democrat told NBC's "Meet the Press."
In order to reach 60 votes, Reid is expected to offer to his colleagues what could be called "the option-option." On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri laid out what senators can expect in Reid's plan. It will include a national, not for profit, government insurance plan. But senators will be able to vote on three options on how such a plan would be implemented.
That would include allowing states to "opt in" or "opt out" of the plan -- or approve a trigger that would activate the government health program only if private insurance companies are unsuccessful in cutting costs.
Democrats are feeling the wind at their back with the latest polls showing that a majority of Americans support a "public option" in the reform measure. And they think they know why. They say it's because this is the time of year that employees renew their health coverage.
"It's open enrollment period right now. And so many people are looking, once again, at another year where they're not going to get a raise because all of their raise is going to go to increased health care costs," Senator McCaskill said on "This Week."
Sen. McConnell Chastises Health Reform Spend
So far, it doesn't appear that any Republicans are on board with Reid's plan.
The leader's counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on "This Week, "We know there is nervousness among Democrats over this increasing view that Congress is acting like a teenager with their parents' credit card, not worried about who's going to have to pay the bill."
But it could be Republicans who are nervous. They won't be able to stop Reid if his "option-option" attracts 60 votes.