WASHINGTON — In a boost to President Barack Obama’s flagship reform drive, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday a Senate health care bill would cut the deficit by 118 billion dollars.
The release of the report thickened the intrigue in a tense period of vote hunting for Obama’s Democratic allies in the House of Representatives, with the White House pushing for a crucial vote on the measure within a week.
The non-partisan CBO said in its updated assessment that the Senate bill would cost 875 billion dollars over 10 years and reduce projected budget deficits by 118 billion dollars.
In a bid to thwart Republican obstruction tactics, Obama wants the House to pass the Senate bill along with a package of “fixes” in a delicate political maneuver that represents the last hope for his key domestic priority.
Senate Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid said intense talks with the White House and House leaders over the scope of proposed legislative changes to the bill had yielded significant results.
“We have a few issues we still need to work through but we’ve made a lot of progress,” he said.
“We feel comfortable that the American people have health care within their grasp. We feel that this is something that we can do… (but) it’s not done yet and that’s an understatement.”
The White House has been mounting an intense operation to convince wavering Democrats to vote for the legislation, sending Obama out on the road and slamming perceived abuses by the mighty health insurance industry.
“I believe that Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care reform,” Obama said at a rally in the midwestern state of Missouri on Wednesday.
“The time for talk is over, it’s time to vote. It’s time to vote.”
Obama’s political strategist David Plouffe meanwhile sent an email to members of Organizing for America, the president’s grassroots network, in a bid to dispel what he called smears and misinformation on the plan.
“We’re launching an unprecedented week-long campaign sprint — our ‘Final March for Reform,'” Plouffe wrote.
Obama says his approach would cut costs, expand access, rein in abuses by health care insurance firms and help reduce the rolls of more than 40 million people in America without health coverage.
The United States is the world’s richest nation but the only industrialized democracy that does not provide health care coverage to all its citizens.
The White House wants a House vote to be scheduled before March 18, when the president leaves on a week-long trip to Indonesia and Australia.