PEEK

Senate Leader Announces Health-Care Bill

The public option is in -- but what about reproductive rights?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that his Democratic caucus was ready to begin debate on a health-care bill that will be made public later this evening.

Reid told reporters that the bill contains a public option with an opt-out provisions whereby state legislatures could deny citizens participation in the plan.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will cost $849 billion.

Reid made his announcement this evening surrounded by a group of senators, including Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who wrote the health-care legislation that came out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that was chaired by the late Ted Kennedy, for whom health-care reform was a life-long goal. Other senators, all Democrats, around the podium included Sen. Patty Murray, Wash.; Al Franken, Minn.; Chuck Schumer, N.Y.; Debbie Stabenow, Mich., and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Ill.

Absent from the scene were the Senate's most ardent pro-choice women senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California. Also absent was Sen. Jay Rockefeller, W.V., who opposed the Senate Finance Committee bill for its lack of a public option -- a situation Reid has attempted to remedy with this opt-out provision. Rockefeller is regarded as the Senate's health-care scholar.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Mont., was notably absent, as well, though for family reasons. Dodd said that Baucus' mother was ill, and that accounted for his absence. The bill that Reid announced today melds Dodd's HELP Committee bill with the one crafted by Baucus' committee.

Reid promised that the bill would be available to the public online later this evening.

C-SPAN has the video here of Reid's press announcement.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.
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