Say What? Harry Reid Parses the Health Care Deal

With the Senate wrangling over spending over the coming weekend, there isn’t likely to be much happening on the health care front until the first of the week. That provides a much needed breather from the Senate charade, and for junkies, an opportunity to decode Harry Reid’s description of his deal Tuesday night. Here, as recorded by the New York Times, is what he had to say:

Thanks everyone, for being patient and waiting for us. It goes without saying that this has been kind of a long journey. We have confronted many hurdles and had to take some big steps and a lot of little steps. But tonight we have overcome a real problem that we have had. I think it’s fair to say that the debate at this stage has been portrayed as a very divisive one and many have assumed that people of different perspectives can’t come together. But I think what we were able to work out the last few days, which culminated tonight belies that fact. We have a broad agreement. Now I know that people are going to ask to be given every detail of this.

I have talked 20 minutes ago to Doug Elmendorf. I told the head of the C.B.O. that we were going to send him something tomorrow that he would have to score and the reason I mention that to you, I also went over in some detail about what we were authorized to say about what we are going to send him. We know what we are going to send him, we have to write it up in legislative language. And he said the same as when you sent over your merged bill. We have had a rule here for 40 years or however long we have been in existence, if you start talking about the plan and start shipping it around, it will be made public. And we want not that to be the case because we want to know the score before we start giving all the details even to our own members.

So you are not going to get answers to those questions. I asked Senators Schumer and Pryor to work together with a group of moderates and progressives. Everyone thought it’s an impossible job. But these two fine senators have done an outstanding job of leading these two groups of people. Everyone knows who the 10 are; they have worked very hard for days now.

This is a consensus that will help ensure the American people win in a couple of different ways. One, insurance companies will certainly have more competition. And two, the American people will certainly have more choices. I already know all 60 senators in my caucus don’t agree on every piece of the merger. I know that we have sent over there to C.B.O., or will send to them tomorrow, not everyone is going to agree to every piece that we have sent over there. But that doesn’t mean we disagree on what we sent there.

I applaud and congratulate the 10 senators led by Schumer and Pryor. I think it’s important to mention their names, Brown, Carper, Feingold, Harkin, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson, Rockefeller. As I have indicated, we can’t disclose the details of what we have done, but believe me we have got something that is good and that I think is very, for us, it moves this bill way down the road.

Let me just say, we have seen all kinds of articles in newspapers that Senator Schumer, Senator Pryor, I have said things, other parts of the tent, as Elmendorf and I talked tonight, all the things you have read in the newspapers, all the things you have read in the newspapers. The public option is gone. It’s not true. O.K. Everyone understand that. So we are not going into detail. But you have heard to this point, you could be surprised what we’ve sent to CBO.

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