Sen. Tom Harkin flashes the victory sign after Senate Democrats unveiled their health care proposal on Wednesday.
Health care debate
WASHINGTON - The Senate rolled out its health reform bill Wednesday night, unveiling an $849 billion measure that Democrats declared will cut the deficit, shore up Medicare and cover 94% of Americans.
"This bill cuts costs to the federal government more than any single bill that's ever been passed - over $500 billion," crowed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. "People will look back and say that this proposal was something that turned America around."
Senators said it would slash the deficit by $127 billion over 10years. It would be funded in part by raising the Medicare payroll tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000.
Among the major provisions in the 2,074-page bill is a public health insurance plan that would let states opt out. Lawmakers insisted the bill won't pay for abortion or help illegal immigrants.
The measure does not have the even more restrictive anti-abortion language the House bill features, which would affect private policies and has created a potential roadblock to passage.
Sources said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch will offer an amendment to make the language the same.
Democrats very much would like to pass the bill in the Senate, then merge it with the House's before Christmas, delivering a cherished present to the White House.
President Obama hailed the bill as a "milestone" and urged Congress to act swiftly.