Washington (CNN) - Negotiations between key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate over health insurance co-ops as an alternative to a government-run health plan were at an impasse Monday over how much federal government involvement there should be in the creation and running of the co-ops, according to senators and aides involved in the talks.
The negotiations could hold the key to bipartisan compromise.
Most Democrats want a heavy federal presence to ensure the co-ops can adequately compete with the big insurers and help drive down costs, but Republicans say they will back co-ops only if the touch from Washington is very light. Republicans say anything more that that is akin to the government-run proposal they uniformly reject.
"It's clear they are not talking about anything close to a national plan with enough clout to keep the insurance companies honest," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY.
Schumer, an influential member of the Democratic leadership, has been working behind the scenes on a co-op plan that Democrats can live with.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has learned Senate Democrats will pull money to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison from a war funding bill instead of face an onslaught of criticism from Republicans, who argue it would be reckless to shutter the prison before the Obama administration has decided where to transfer the terrorism suspects who are detained there.
Democratic leaders made the decision this morning, according to two Senate Democratic leadership sources. It is a blow to President Obama who - in one of his first official acts as president - announced that he would close the base by next January 22.
The Senate war supplemental bill, which is scheduled to be voted on this week, included $80 million for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice to begin the process of shutting down the prison.
Now, that money will be stripped out and replaced with language saying no funds can be used to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the United States, and no additional money will be approved, until 60 days after the president submits to Congress his plan to close the facility. That language is similar to a provision in the House bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN)– Top lawmakers and White House officials ended more than nine hours of closed-door negotiations on the economic stimulus bill shortly before midnight Tuesday indicating a final deal on the roughly $800 billion bill is possible as early as Wednesday.
“People are making progress. Drafting is taking place tonight. We’re not there yet but we made a significant amount of progress,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said as he left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office for the last time of the day.
“Everybody is doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. “Everyone knows the seriousness of the economic crisis.”
Pelosi, Reid, and Emanuel shuttled between meetings on the either side of the Capitol. The meetings included key House and Senate committee chairmen as well as the three Senate Republican moderates who voted for the bill Tuesday, giving it a slim margin of victory.
They were trying to execute a broad framework that Democratic sources tell CNN was hatched in an unpublicized White House meeting early Tuesday morning with President Obama, Reid and Pelosi.
Details began to emerge on the merging of the bills. Two senior Democratic sources said negotiators had agreed on a top line number of $800 billion but later one of those sources said the number could be even less. That would be less than either the Senate’s $838 billion bill or the House’s $819 billion.
Several sources involved tell CNN that the number is lower to satisfy the three moderate Republican senators who wanted a lower final number.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle returned “home” Tuesday to the Senate floor and stood alongside a bitter adversary to watch his longtime friend and South Dakota colleague Tim Johnson be sworn-in for a third term.
Sen. Johnson, who suffered a devastating stroke, was flanked by Daschle and Republican Sen. John Thune, who defeated the Democratic leader by a razor thin 51% to 49 % margin in what can be accurately described as a bitter contest. Daschle was first elected to Congress as a House member in 1978 and successfully ran for the Senate in 1986.
But time seems to have paved over the bitterness. As Thune and Daschle departed the Senate floor, the two former adversaries shook hands and patted each other on the back.
Daschle returns to Capitol Hill on Thursday for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services.