Updated 4:49 p.m. Oct 7 2009
By Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray
A health-care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee would cost $829 billion over the next decade and would meet President Obama’s goal of reducing the federal budget deficit by 2019, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
The bill would trim federal budget deficits by $81 billion, the CBO said. It would also expand coverage to 94 percent of Americans by 2019, the CBO said, up from the current 83 percent.
The assessment by Congress’s nonpartisan auditors has been awaited by committee members as they prepare to vote on the bill, perhaps as soon as Thursday.
The committee completed its work on the bill last Friday, but committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) promised members that, before voting, they would have a "reasonable" amount of time to review the CBO’s assessment of the price tag.
The panel’s vote is expected to be close, and passage could hinge on a handful of senators who have indicated that the CBO’s report may sway them.
In a letter to Baucus and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the committee’s ranking Republican, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf cautioned that the analysis is preliminary in large part because the committee has not yet drawn up the bill in legislative language