Senate Still Waiting for Heatlhcare Bill

Looks like CBO is not going to deliver any cost analysis on a healthcare reform bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NE, is trying to bring to the floor this week.

He has been going back and forth with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for some time now, massaging the numbers and policy to get a bill and total price tag that his Caucus can swallow.

He will need every one of his 60 Democrats to vote to move forward to debate on the bill.  A handful are still holding out, because no one has seen any details. Reid is keeping all of that close to the vest, but most believe Reid will be able to open formal debate.

The major questions remain unanswered, as yet:

What kind of public option will be in the bill?  It's almost impossible to see how anything could be in the bill but a triggered government insurance plan. But it's unclear if the more liberal members could stomach this.  The plan, authored by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-ME, would trigger a public plan almost at the same time current reforms kick in -- IF the reform efforts don't bring costs down.  Reid would have a sales job to get it by a dug-in group who want a robust public option and want it right out of the gate.

Will Reid increase subsidies for the poor and lower middle class?

Will there be more options available to more people?

Abortion seems all but certain to be the Hyde amendment language already approved by the Senate Finance Committee.  Conservative, pro-life Dems like Ben Nelson, D-NE, seem ok with language that clearly fences off all federal funds from being used to fund abortion.   Nelson clearly would like the more restrictive language approved in the House, but he seems to know that won't fly with the vast majority of the Senate Dem Caucus.

Lots more questions remain unanswered.

Possibly Wednesday we see a Reid bill and a special Caucus of Dems to go over the bill.   Unclear if the CBO score would be made public.

That sets up a key test vote to start debate Saturday.  Several key senators have said they feel like Saturday is a near certainty.

After that, they all leave for the weeklong Thanksgiving recess.