Majority leader Steny Hoyer has suggested that the House vote on health reform could be pushed until Sunday, because it will take more time to placate the Congressional Budget Office:
Hoyer: we are going to do it as soon as we have "CBO numbers we have confidence in" "saturday and sunday are possibilities"
This would seem to confirm the rumors that the CBO score hasn't been released yet because it doesn't reduce the deficit enough.
Democrats will have to continue to change the bill until they can get an acceptable score, but time is running out. Since they need three days from the release of the CBO score to the vote, and since Sunday is the last day they can vote, that mean tomorrow night is the absolute latest the score can be released. So, they need to find ways to make the bill reduce the deficit more, and they need to do it in 24 hours.
It would seem that the White House is looking to increase the excise tax as a means of placating the CBO. Ben Smith reports that AFL-CIO chair Richard Trumka has been summoned to the White House to discuss:
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.
It was actually the demand to reduce the excise tax that forced the current plan for the House to pass the Senate bill, and then fix that bill through a reconciliation "sidecar." With the backing of labor, House Democrats of all stripes stood together very strongly on this, torpedoing attempts to just pass the Senate bill unchanged, or attempts to try a smaller bill (or series of smaller bills).
Demanding massive concessions on the excise tax was the actual "Progressive Block" in the negotiations, behind the scenes. With further concessions being demanded on that front, it will take the blessing of Trumka to make the deal work. And so, he has been summoned to the White House.
Of course, including a public option would solve the problems Democrats are currently facing with the CBO, but hey, that was never part of the plan. Or really, even without a public option, you could still finance it by increasing tax rates on high-income households. But I guess a pound of flesh must always be taken from any left-wing group in order for any victory to be allowed.