Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 | 4:14 p.m.
WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spent most of Wednesday holed up at the White House with President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders negotiating the landmark health care bill.
Key divisions remain between the House and Senate bills, including whether to tax high-end “Cadillac” health care plans held by many union households – a provision labor strongly opposes.
Both chambers are looking for the swiftest route to crafting a final bill that could be passed and sent to the president for his signature.
What grew into an unusual all-day session began as Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Obama at 9:30 a.m. They were joined later in the morning by congressional leaders and chairmen of the health committees.
Since Republicans have maintained near unanimous opposition to the bill, Democrats are essentially negotiating the final version among themselves. Talks paused for about an hour in mid-afternoon as the House voted, but resumed and continued into the evening.
After so much work to get the bill to this point, Democrats now face another obstacle: They are looking over their shoulder to next week’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat that had been held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
The Republican candidate has been gaining on the Democratic front-runner, and losing the Democratic seat in Massachusetts would upset the 60 votes Reid needs to pass the health care bill in the Senate in the face of Republican opposition.