Dems say deal near on healthcare overhaul

Jan. 15, 2010 at 10:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Congressional Democrats emerged from a two-hour meeting at the White House Friday saying they had neared a deal on the overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.

The senators and House members -- working to reconcile House and Senate healthcare bills -- said they do not plan to negotiate during the weekend. That's a sign they have wrapped up discussions on major issues and were preparing to send a bill to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate, Politico said.

"We did well today. We agreed on some things," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "We're pretty close."

"We've worked through the gamut of issues in great depth, but there are no final agreements and no overall package," the White House said in a statement. "The next step in the process is to evaluate the costs and savings associated with the various proposals for each tenet of the legislation."

Negotiators have yet to iron out differences on issues including new restrictions on federal abortion funding and immigrants' access to insurance exchanges.

"There's still work to be done," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. "But we've made real progress, and I think we're very close. So we'll continue to work. I am going to sleep tonight, however."

Former President Bill Clinton visited the Capitol Friday to urge lawmakers to explain to constituents how healthcare reform would affect them.

"His message to us was to go back to your districts and tell people what the consequences are if we don't do it, and why we want to do it," Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., said.

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