Reid meeting with centrists to ensure 60

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is holding a series of meetings with Democratic centrists to secure the 60 votes he needs to begin the healthcare debate.

Democratic leaders expect the legislation to hit the Senate floor next week or the week after.

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Reid appears confident that the entire Democratic Conference will vote en bloc to begin the healthcare debate, but he’s not taking any chances after losing a crucial vote last week on legislation to address Medicare payments to doctors.

Nothing is certain in the wake of Reid’s announcement Monday that he would include a government-run insurance plan in the Senate bill. Centrists such as Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have said they would oppose a public option unless a trigger mechanism delayed its implementation.

But Reid is working his conference to get the votes to start the debate.

“Harry has been literally sitting down face to face with senator after senator, working through these differences,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Tuesday.


Reid did not include the trigger. Instead, he gave states the option to "opt out" of the public plan.

“I believe we clearly will have the support of my caucus to move to this bill and start legislating,” Reid told reporters Monday.

Durbin said that leaders would stress the historic significance of the upcoming healthcare debate during the Democratic conference lunch scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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“There’s always a question,” Durbin said when asked Tuesday whether  Democrats would muster the 60 votes to proceed to the reform bill. “There are members that have serious concerns that are specific to their states or specific to their own set of values.

“For over 60 years we’ve been waiting for this day and it’s going to be here in the matter of a week or two,” said Durbin. “We’re fortunate enough to serve at this moment in history, and now we have the responsibility to find the best healthcare reform that we can pass.

“We have 60 votes and no excuses,” Durbin added.