With less than two months to go until Congress breaks for the holidays, the White House and Senate leaders are huddling to figure out how to pass a bill before the end of the year. As part of their push, both camps are meeting with conservative Democrats--most notably Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--whose unanimous support is absolutely required simply to bring the bill to the floor. But leading Democrats are unlikely to make any progress until these swing-vote senators see the bill Majority Leader Harry Reid put together, along with a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. They say that's necessary before they make any decisions on even the earliest procedural votes, and there's no clear indication as to when the CBO will weigh in.
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Last night, Reid met with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and others to discuss, among other things, how far they've come in convincing caucus conservatives to support the bill's public option. "That's one of many subjects, that wasn't the main subject," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Along the same lines, Reid spokesman Jim Manley suggests that this is part and parcel of an effort to move legislation sooner rather than later. They met, he said, to "discuss ways to try and get a bill done by the end of the year."
But with conservative Democrats cold to the public option, and withholding their commitments to allow the bill to be debated on the floor, the White House and Democratic leaders have a lot of work ahead of them and they'll likely have to work in tandem. On that score, this week, Lincoln--perhaps the most electorally vulnerable of all moderate Democrats--met with both Reid and President Obama to discuss the Senate bill.