Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a sweeping health care bill Wednesday that would expand health insurance coverage to 30 million more Americans at an estimated cost of $849 billion over 10 years.
Reid and other Senate Democrats cited an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for the coverage and cost figures.
In addition, they said at a news conference, the budget office estimated that the proposal would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion over the next 10 years and by more than $600 billion in the following decade.
The CBO figures were preliminary, the Senate Democratic leadership said in a media briefing. The CBO was expected to provide its final analysis later Wednesday or on Thursday, according to the briefing.
President Obama hailed what he called a “critical milestone” in the push to meet his top domestic priority for 2009.
“From day one, our goal has been to enact legislation that offers stability and security to those who have insurance and affordable coverage to those who don’t, and that lowers costs for families, businesses and governments across the country,” Obama said in a statement, adding that the Senate proposal “meets those principles.”
The proposal drafted from two separate bills approved by Senate committees now goes to the full Senate, where Republicans have vowed to try to block it.
Reid, D-Nevada, needs 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to overcome a certain GOP filibuster attempt and open the chamber’s debate on the bill. It would take another 60 votes to close debate that could last for weeks, while final approval of the bill would only require a simple majority.
Democratic leadership sources have said a Saturday vote to start debate is possible. It remains unclear, however, whether Democrats will have enough votes to fend off a filibuster. Even if they do, the ensuing debate is expected to last weeks, challenging the goal of Senate Democratic leaders to pass the bill by the end of the year.
Reid met with Senate Democrats late Wednesday afternoon before a news conference with the party’s Senate leaders. At the news conference, Reid touted the proposal as providing health care to more Americans “in a fiscally responsible way,” while Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, proclaimed the projected deficit reductions “real savings for Americans.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who succeeded the late Sen. Edward Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, expressed sorrow that Kennedy was not present to continue supporting “the cause of his life.”
The 2,074-page Senate bill seeks to reduce long-term costs of health care for the government, businesses and individuals while reforming how services are delivered to increase efficiency and effectiveness. It includes controversial provisions such as a government-run public health insurance option unanimously opposed by Republicans.
The bill would prohibit illegal immigrants from participating in a health insurance exchange created for those unable to afford health coverage, and it also would prohibit the use of federal funds for abortion coverage in the exchange, according to the briefing for journalists.
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