The Senate's not yet formally back from its holiday break, but already House and Senate negotiators have all but taken up residence in the West Wing of the White House to hammer out a final version of a health overhaul bill.
Negotiators appear to have stuck a deal for a Cadillac tax on health plans.
Negotiators appear to have stuck a deal for a Cadillac tax on health plans. iStockphoto.com
Congressional leaders and key committee chairmen met for more than eight hours yesterday, and NPR has confirmed that today's negotiations have produced a tentative compromise on the so-called Cadillac tax on health plans with very generous benefits. Details to come soon, sources promise.
Does this mean a final bill is imminent? Not exactly. There's still a lot of negotiating left to do.
But one thing you can take from the frenetic pace of the talks is just how freaked out Democrats are by the closeness of the special Senate race in Massachusetts.
Republican State Senator Scott Brown is raising tons of money and making a strong challenge to Attorney General Martha Coakley in the battle to take over the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. The vote is set for Tuesday. At stake, among other things, is the key 60th Senate vote to get the health care bill passed.
Even settling something like the fight over the Cadillac tax is just the start of where this bill needs to go to get to the finish line. Once negotiators get a deal, the Congressional Budget Office has to figure out how much it will cost. That took more than two weeks for the last version of the Senate bill.
Then it has to be sold successfully to every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus and 218 House Democrats. Not to mention an increasingly skeptical public. This could still take a while.
So whether or not President Obama gets to sign a bill by end of this month or the first week of February, however, is still anyone's guess.