Tales from the Trail

Talking healthcare: How close is “close”?

January 15, 2010

The talk on Capitol Hill is that a deal is close on healthcare legislation, President Barack Obama’s signature issue.

But trying to define what close means is not that easy. How far away is close can basically be anything since the definition of the word close does not have an actual time attached to it. USA HEALTHCARE

“I would certainly hope that within the next 24, 48, 72 hours, that we have a general agreement between the Senate and the House.” House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer told CNBC on Friday.

“I think we’re getting very close,” he said.

Two days earlier, on Wednesday, Hoyer had this to say:  “Prospects of reaching agreement between the Senate and the House are better than they were 24 hours ago. We’re getting close.”

Even if there is no way to set a time on “close,” anecdotally it does appear that there is a big push to close the deal — it’s quite unusual for the President of the United States to make trips to the Hill to clinch an agreement on legislation.

Negotiators want to avoid ending up at “close, but no cigar.”

(Some trivia – that phrase is believed to have come from carnival games of the past where the prize was a cigar and the loser was dismissed with those words).

Democrats deny they are pushing to sew up a deal before Tuesday’s election in Massachusetts for Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, where a Republican win could stop movement on healthcare in its tracks.

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Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas (Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in November), Reuters/Larry Downing (Capitol dome)

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