Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will hold the big coming-out party for his version of healthcare reform legislation on Thursday. Wednesday evening, though, Reid and other Senate Democrats gave reporters a preview at a press conference held after a caucus meeting at which he presented them with the bill.
"Tonight begins the last leg of this journey that we've been on now for some time," Reid said. "This bill is going to do good things over the next 10 years for so many different people in our society." Reid made sure to emphasize a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the bill would reduce the deficit by $127 billion over the next 10 years, and perhaps as much as $650 billion over the 10 years after that. He also worked to reassure worried seniors that the bill will not weaken Medicare -- in fact, he argued, it will strengthen it. (Video of Reid's remarks is below.)
The bill reportedly includes a compromise version of the public option, one that would allow individual states to opt out of the new government-run insurance provider the legislation would create. It also contains a restriction on federal funding for abortion, though not the language used in the controversial Stupak amendment contained in the House's reform bill. So far, pro-choice lawmakers seem happy with Reid's language.
President Obama, too, has weighed in on the announcement of the bill.
"Today we passed another critical milestone in the health reform effort with the release of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
"From day one, our goal has been to enact legislation that offers stability and security to those who have insurance and affordable coverage to those who don’t, and that lowers costs for families, businesses and governments across the country. Majority Leader Reid, Chairmen Baucus and Dodd, and countless Senators have worked tirelessly to craft legislation that meets those principles .... I look forward to working with the Senate and House to get a finished bill to my desk as soon as possible."