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It's now Democrat vs. Democrat on health care

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WASHINGTON – It's one of the oldest spectator sports in American politics: Democrat vs. Democrat. Welcome to the health care overhaul edition. With just days remaining to prove that they can meet a self-imposed Christmas deadline and pass President Barack Obama's signature initiative through the Senate, Democrats seeking a rendezvous with history instead detoured to an intraparty brawl. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was poised to release the latest version of the Senate legislation as early as Friday, but it was unclear what kind of reception he'd get. Labor leaders said the bill was soft on the insurance industry, and former party chairman Howard Dean said he'd vote against it if he were a senator. All eyes were on the only known Democratic holdout, moderate Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, whose primary concern is that abortion funding restrictions in the bill were too lax. Nelson indicated Thursday he still was not happy but would keep talking with Reid, who needs 60 votes to push through Republican opposition. Nelson, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, was vague throughout the day about his intentions, eventually telling reporters, "I hope we're getting closer" to agreement. "Without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient," he said earlier in the day in a written statement that summarized the results of days of private negotiations. The second-term Nebraskan opposes the procedure and wants tighter restrictions written into the overhaul. Any hopes the bill's supporters had of a Republican casting a critical 60th vote vanished when Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine said after a meeting with Obama that the Democrats' timetable for a pre-Christmas vote was "totally unrealistic."

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