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Senators Reach Tentative Public Option Deal--Withhold Details As They Await CBO Score

Brian Beutler

WASHINGTON - Ten Democratic Senators emerged tonight from a long series of
meetings having reached a tentative agreement on a public option
compromise. None would comment on the actual provisions in the deal,
saying they first want to hear back from the Congressional Budget
Office, which will begin scoring the new package tomorrow.

"We've made a lot of progress," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Now, he
says, Democrats will "take the next step and ask the CBO to score what
we've been discussing...we don't expect them to respond to us within 24
hours. Apparently it will take a couple days."

Within the past week, the 10 liberal and conservative Democrats
hashing out a compromise have discussed a number of potential
alternatives to the opt-out public option in the current bill,
including tighter insurance reforms, an extension of the competitive
market that insures Federal employees, and, most notably, a measure
that would allow certain people between the ages of 55 and 64 to pay
into Medicare.

However, none of the senators speaking to reporters tonight would
confirm which, if any, of these items would be part of the package
going to CBO.

Lawmakers have suggested in recent days that the compromises under
discussion were meant to replace the national public option that's
currently in the bill. The Associated Press as the New York Times
are even reporting that the public option is gone. Tonight, though,
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that might not be the case.
"All the things you've read in the newspapers...'the public option is
gone,'--it's not true," Reid said at an impromptu press conference
after tonight's meeting broke.

Reid wouldn't elaborate further--and it's worth noting that in
recent days, aides and members have tried to characterize some of the
ideas on the table as a form of "public option" when in fact none of
them are. But it looks like we'll know definitively by the end of the
week--and maybe sooner.

"I already know that all 60 senators in my caucus don't agree on
every piece of the merger," Reid said. "I know that what we've sent
over there to CBO--will send to them tomorrow--not everyone's going to
agree on every piece that we've sent over there, but that doesn't mean
that we disagree on what we've sent to them."

Emerging from the meeting, public option stalwart Sen. Jay
Rockefeller (D-WV) told reporters, "You're going to find nobody who's
happy with everything."

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