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Health Care Progress Report: December 14

President Obama, in an interview that aired Sunday on "60 Minutes," said the Senate is well on its way to passing a health care bill before Christmas. Meanwhile, on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Sen. Joe Lieberman said he agrees -- if his fellow Democratic caucus members are willing to throw out their latest public option compromise.

The Democrats' latest plan to unify their party around the health care bill may thus be falling apart - and Republicans are hardening their resolve against the overall bill. As Congress heads into a midterm election year, the days that can feasibly be spent on health care reform are beginning to run short. Special Report: Health Care

The chart below shows the progress Democrats have made toward their goal of passing a comprehensive health care reform package. As lawmakers work through the six major steps toward reform, is tracking their moves.

The House of Representatives passed a health care bill last month, but the Senate must now do the same. After the Senate passes its own bill, the two chambers can move onto step four and reconcile their two reform packages.


More on the progress of health care legislation from the Senate:

(CBS/Karin Cooper)
"No" to the Medicare Buy-In? In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes," President Obama said he expects the Senate to pass a health care bill by Christmas.

Last week, it appeared the Senate could very well do so, as a group of key liberal and conservative Democrats worked out a plan to get past divisive issues like whether to include in the bill a government-run health insurance plan, or "public option." Part of that plan includes a proposal to allow people ages 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare, the popular government plan that serves senior citizens.

However, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- one of the Democratic caucus members the plan was intended to appease -- dropped a bombshell Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation," when he said he would not vote for a bill that expands Medicare.

"From what I hear, I certainly would have a hard time voting for it because it has some of the same infirmities that the public option did," he said about the Medicare buy-in.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another conservative who may or may not vote for the health care bill, said on "Face the Nation" that the Medicare buy-in is "the forerunner of single-payer, the ultimate single-payer plan, maybe even more directly than the public option."

The Medicare buy-in appealed to many liberals as a replacement for the public option. Former Democratic leader Howard Dean told CBS News' "The Early Show" that the plan represented "real reform." House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a strong public option supporter, suggested last week she may be able to support the Senate plan.

Still Calling for the Public Option Liberal grassroots groups, however, were wary of the compromise from the start and maintained their call for a public option. Additionally, a new CBS/ New York Times poll showed that while most Americans are skeptical of the Democrats' reform efforts, 60 percent of the American public still supports a public option.

The only way Senate Democrats could seemingly pass a public option would be through the use of a procedural maneuver called "reconciliation," which would allow Democrats to bypass a Republican filibuster and pass the bill with only 51 votes. At this point, the Medicare buy-in "compromise" may only be feasible via reconciliation: Lieberman punctuated his appearance on "Face the Nation" on Sunday by directly telling Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid he plans to vote against any bill that expands Medicare. However, reconciliation is not a serious consideration at this point, Huffington Post reports.

Lieberman said on "Face the Nation" that "the only way to get this done before Christmas is to bring in some Republicans who are open-minded on this like Olympia Snowe (of Maine)." To do that, he said that among other things, "You got to take out the Medicare buy-in. You got to forget about the public option."

5597514Other Obstacles: Abortion, Drug Importation, Etc. Meanwhile, other issues like the abortion language in the Senate bill continue to divide Democrats.

"I can't support the bill with the abortion language that's there," Nelson said on "Face the Nation." The senator had offered an amendment to the bill that would have restricted abortion coverage for some women, but it failed to win sufficient support to pass.

Reid met Saturday with abortion rights advocates to work out a compromise, the New York Times reports. Since conservative Democrats like Nelson are unhappy with a compromise that would keep federal funds in the health care system separate from the premiums used to pay for abortions, Reid is reportedly considering moves to win them over, such as increasing federal tax credits for adoption and services for pregnant students. The ideas were proposed by moderate Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), who meets with President Obama today.

Democrats were also divided last week over whether to allow Americans to import pharmaceuticals from other countries, where they are sold at lower prices. Democratic leadership put aside the issue after days of debate and may or may not vote on the issue.

Republicans continue to uniformly opposed all of the Democrats' plans. "Republicans who have a vote on this issue in the Senate are together," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on "Face the Nation." Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele released a memo last week saying Republicans want to "delay, stall, slow down and ultimately stop" the health care bill.

Conservative voters intend to express their outrage as well: On Tuesday, a group of "tea partiers" will storm the Senate in protest of "the government takeover of healthcare."

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