Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE)--two of the final hold outs--reminded reporters that they'd oppose the bill that emerges from negotiations with the House if the language changes dramatically, entrenching the conventional wisdom that the House will have to accept a final bill that's significantly less progressive than the bill they passed this fall.
"I'm afraid that a splitting of the differences here will not work," Lieberman said. "It took a lot of work to bring this 60 together, and this 60 is delicately balanced."
But, crucially, even Nelson speaks of the bill before the Senate now as if it's already been passed.
"The next step, of course, will be to see what happens with the conference," Nelson said.
A disappointed Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) had harsh words for Democrats, who, nearly a year after the legislative process kicked off, she says are rushing this bill to passage. But, interestingly, she did not rule out contributing to, and ultimately voting for, the conference package.