- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Senate Democrats plan to file a 10-year, $849 billion health care reform bill in the Senate late Wednesday night, marking the start of formal debate on President Obama’s chief domestic priority.

The bill would cut the federal deficit by $127 billion over 10 years and by as much as $650 billion in the next decade, according to a senior Democratic leadership aide who spoke on condition of anonimity ahead of Mr. Reid releasing the bill to rank-and-file Democrats.

The price tag, which come from a preliminary analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, is less than the $900 billion Mr. Obama has called for and far less than the $1.2 trillion cost of the House legislation. It could help ease some moderates’ concerns over harming the deficit.

The bill would also guarantee coverage to 94 percent of all Americans and reduce the number of uninsured people by 31 million, the aide said.

The aide declined to reveal what kind of policy is spelled out in the legislation, but Mr. Reid has said it would include a government-run insurance plan. It is also likely to require nearly all Americans to purchase insurance.

Mr. Reid plans to file the bill late Wednesday night and hold the first procedural votes on the legislation on Saturday. Though the aide warned that the schedule could change.

It’s still unclear whether Mr. Reid has the votes to start formal debate. Democrats say all but three of their 60 members have pledged to support the procedural vote.

The holdouts — Sens. Ben Nelson on Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — have said they wouldn’t make a decision ahead of seeing the complete bill.

The House passed its health reform legislation earlier this month in a 220-215 vote.

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