“This has been a long journey. We have confronted many hurdles, and tonight I believe we have overcome yet another one.
“I asked Senators Schumer and Pryor to work with some of the most moderate and most progressive members of our diverse caucus, and tonight they have come to a consensus.
“It is a consensus that includes a public option and will help ensure the American people win in two ways: one, insurance companies will face more competition, and two, the American people will have more choices.
“I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my caucus. But I know we all appreciate the hard work that these progressives and moderates have done to move this historic debate forward.
“I want to thank Senators Schumer, Pryor, Brown, Carper, Feingold, Harkin, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Rockefeller for working together for the greater good and never losing sight of our shared goal: making it possible for every American to afford to live a healthy life.
“As is long-standing practice, we do not disclose details of any proposal before the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to evaluate it. We will wait for that to happen, but in the meantime, tonight we are confident.”
They declined to outline the specifics of the agreement, but said that the measures they had been discussing will be sent to the Congressional Budget Office office for cost estimates. Once the estimates are returned, the final deal will be put together.
"We have made a lot of progress. There's a lot of agreement. We have decided to take the next step and that is to ask the CBO to score what we've been discussing," said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), one of five conservative Democrats negotiating with five liberals.
The discussion has focused on abandoning or greatly narrowing the public health insurance option. In exchange, people 55-64 would be able to buy in to Medicare and Medicaid eligibility would be expanded to people within 150 percent of the federal poverty line. And people within 300 percent of poverty would be eligible for a program pushed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) modeled on her state's Basic Health. Cantwell is not one of the ten in the meetings but has stopped by to brief negotiators.
Senators, after the meeting, would not confirm which elements of the discussion were sent to CBO. Much will depend on the results of the CBO analysis.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), one of the liberal members in negotiations, said that he was happy with where the talks had gone.
"I've got a smile on my face. I don't smile naturally," he said.
While re-affirming his fierce opposition to the "public option," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., showed an openness to consider the deal, which would create an insurance program regulated by the government but run by private insurance companies.
"My colleagues know where I am on the public option, which is I'm against it," he said before walking into his party's weekly luncheon. "And I think [they] also know that I'm open-minded on some of the other trade-offs."
While other moderate Democrats — like Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — have opposed the public option as it is currently written in the Senate's health care bill, they have publicly entertained a willingness to vote for a scaled-back version.
But Lieberman has consistently vowed to block the bill if it contains any form of a government insurance program.
That stance, said Democratic aides, had made him the biggest obstacle to final passage of the bill.
Lieberman was explicit Tuesday that his openness hinged on any form of a public option being scrubbed from the bill, saying he refused to accept any deal that appeared to be "public option-light."