Published Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 | 2:44 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 | 3:51 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has convened a late-evening meeting tonight of the Democratic caucus to present to fellow senators the $849 billion health care reform bill he has been crafting behind closed doors for weeks.
After an intense day of talks, including a huddle with Vice President Joseph Biden, Reid emerged from the east doors of the Senate chamber at 5 p.m. for the short walk across the hall to the room where senators were assembling. A giant monitor was set for Reid's power-point presentation.
An aide said the $849 billion bill Reid had crafted would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion in 10 years, and would ensure 94 percent of Americans would be covered by insurance at that time. The bill's price tag is less than the nearly $1.1 trillion bill passed by the House earlier this month.
Expecting a unified wall of Republican opposition, Reid must secure the vote of all 60 senators from the Democratic caucus to move the bill forward and open debate. The vote on advancing the bill could come as soon as Friday, but possibly Saturday. If approved, the floor vote is expected to last several weeks and include many amendments.
About an hour later, Reid stood with his leqadership team upbeat:
"The finish line is really in sight."