The ongoing search for 60

THE ONGOING SEARCH FOR 60…. There weren’t a whole lot of developments in the health care reform debate yesterday, in part because so many of the players were engaged in negotiations. Where are we, as of right now? At least a little closer to the goal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expressing confidence about the prospects for passage of historic health care legislation after daylong talks with Democratic holdout Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

In a statement issued late Friday night, Reid says he intends to unveil final revisions to the measure on Saturday and is confident they will prevail.

Nelson also said real progress had been made but said there was nothing final.

Nelson apparently left Reid’s office at 9:40 p.m. (ET), and told reporters, “We are still talking and will have some more conversations tomorrow.” He added that there is “certainly nothing final,” but “there is progress.”

Nelson has a variety of demands, but by most accounts, the notion of indirect funding for abortion continues to be the conservative Nebraskan’s principal concern. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who also opposes abortion rights, has been working on language that satisfies Nelson’s requirements — the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, offered specific praise of Casey’s efforts.

Of course, from a pro-choice perspective, there’s the obvious concern of who’s trying to work out the deal: Reid, Casey, and Nelson, all of whom are Democrats, but all of whom oppose a woman’s right to choose. To that end, Reid has Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California, a leading proponent of abortion rights, involved in the talks.

For what it’s worth, after last night’s meeting ended, Boxer told reporters, “I’m optimistic that we can get 60 votes.”

The discussions continue today, assuming senators can get to the Hill in a city that really doesn’t deal well with snow.

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