Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009 | 8:25 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- On the eve of today’s pivotal meeting of the Senate Democratic caucus at the White House, President Barack Obama expressed confidence that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would carry health care reform legislation to the finish line.
“He’s going to get it done,” said Obama, upbeat during brief remarks to the Las Vegas Sun during an event Monday night at the White House.
The president spoke confidently of Reid, and said he does not believe the majority leader is “getting enough credit for the courage he’s shown.”
Reid, he added, is “doing what’s right for the country.”
The majority leader is struggling to secure the 60 votes necessary from his politically diverse Democratic senators to pass the president’s signature domestic policy priority by Christmas.
The legislation would end unpopular insurance industry practices, such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, while mandating that all Americans carry health care policies -- with subsidies given to help some households afford it.
Reid needs every vote from his 60-member caucus amid a wall of Republican opposition.
Earlier in the evening, as the third week of the Senate floor debate began, Reid called a quickly-planned meeting of the caucus after Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut disclosed Sunday he could not support the latest proposal, potentially derailing the legislation.
Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is among several from the caucus who expressed reservations about the latest proposal to allow those aged 55 to 64 to purchase insurance from a Medicare-like program.
Democrats are at a crossroads as the deadline nears, and a decision to abandon the Medicare provision to appease the Connecticut senator could cost support from liberals who have fought for a government-run alternative to private insurers. A public option plan, which would have been open to all uninsured Americans as an alternative to private insurance, had been swapped out last week for the Medicare proposal.
Monday evening’s closed door meeting lasted more than an hour, punctuated by at least one outburst of applause.
If Reid hopes to pass the bill by Christmas, he must begin a complicated series of procedural votes this week.
Obama has not outwardly meddled in the intricacies of the debate, allowing Congress to craft bills in the House and Senate.
But this afternoon, Senate Democrats will travel en masse to the White House to meet with him on the issue.