By Jeffrey Young - 11/18/09 08:03 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met on Wednesday with centrist Democrats, hoping to end a standoff that has kept the Senate from debating healthcare reform.
Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) strode together into Reid's Capitol office at the majority leader's invitation to get an early look at the legislation.
The meeting between Reid and the centrists has special urgency because the Democratic leader plans Wednesday to finally unveil the version of the healthcare reform bill — and its Congressional Budget Office cost estimate — that the Senate will debate after the break.
So far, Landrieu, Lincoln and Nelson have refused to commit to supporting the motion to proceed, which requires 60 votes to be approved. Republicans are unanimous in their opposition, so Reid needs every member of his conference to vote in favor.
"We're still counting, Harry's still counting, and that's all I can say," Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said prior to Reid's meeting with the centrists.
In the hours before Reid will brief all Senate Democrats, the Democratic leadership is getting an assist at shoring up support for the effort from the Obama administration and other allies.
Vice President Joe Biden, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (a former senator from Colorado) and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) conferred with Reid in the morning and are engaged in an effort to bring aboard reluctant Democrats.
Reid could take formal steps Thursday to set up the critical Saturday vote, but the timing remains in flux. The Senate could remain in session into next week or depart without advancing the healthcare bill.