Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of two Democratic centrists still not committed to supporting a crucial test vote on healthcare reform Saturday night, will not announce her decision until that morning.

"I would say I’m still neutral," said Landrieu, who explained she was still reviewing the legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Wednesday but would make a statement Saturday morning ahead of the upper chamber's vote on a procedural motion that would enable a full debate on the legislation after Thanksgiving.


Landrieu, however, hinted that her position has been shifting toward supporting the vote and moving the bill to a stage at which she and other senators could amend and change it. "I was leaning against. I moved yesterday to neutral after meeting with Harry Reid and that’s where I am right now until I decide," Landrieu said, who called Reid's bill the "best version I’ve seen overall" of healthcare reform.

"In some ways, you can’t fix anything unless you keep the debate moving forward but in the other ways, you’ve got to use the leverage when you’ve got it to get some things that are important," said Landrieu, who also maintained that failure of Democrats to unite behind healthcare reform during the procedural vote Saturday evening would not spell doom for the entire project. "There are always ways to come back," she said.

Landrieu praised Reid's bill even as she criticized parts of it. "This effort is a remarkable effort – in many ways unprecedented. It’s historic and it’s going to take all of us to continue to work together," she said.

But with Landrieu not making her intentions known on Friday and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) still undeclared, Reid will open a rare Senate session Saturday morning without knowing for certain whether he will prevail and unify all 60 members of his caucus in advancing President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy initiative. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who had also been holding out, said Friday he would vote for the motion but reserved the right to participate in a Republican filibuster on the bill itself.

Landrieu insisted that her ongoing reticence was not hampering the healthcare reform effort and that her aim is to influence the legislation. "I’m making a decision about whether I want to go forward or not  -- not because I want to, you know, limit debate. I’m using as much leverage as I have for the issues that I think are important not just to Louisiana but to broad constituencies throughout this country," she said.

Among Landrieu's outstanding concerns is her view that the bill would not offer adequate assistance to workers at small-business or to the self-employed. Specifically, Landrieu, who chairs the Small Business Committee, said that self-employed people should get the same tax-free treatment of health insurance enjoyed by workers who get health benefits from their employers. In addition, she wants to see the effective date for the assistance in the bill moved up from 2014.

Landrieu continues to have misgivings about a proposal to create a government-run public option insurance program that would compete with private plans, despite Reid's compromise version that would allow states to opt out. Instead, Landrieu said she has been trying to devise other proposal including the "trigger" touted by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) that would institute the public option only in states where private insurance proves to be unaffordable or unavailable.

"I also want to be very sensitive to Sen. Snowe because I think we’re going to need her vote in the end," she said. Snowe voted for the Finance Committee's version healthcare reform but withdrew her backing when Reid put a public option in the bill he introduced.

A separate development Friday could help answer some of Landrieu's concerns. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) won support from Reid and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) for his amendment that would allow more workers to turn down their employer-sponsored insurance and obtain vouchers to buy coverage on the health insurance exchanges in the bill. Wyden's amendment is based on an alternate healthcare reform bill he authored -- and which Landrieu co-sponsored. "I'm very happy" about the deal between Wyden, Reid and Baucus, Landrieu said.