Battle rages over healthcare bill

WASHINGTON, (NBC) - The Senate took its first official shot at health care reform Wednesday, a top priority of President Obama.

The health committee started work on a massive bill with well over a hundred amendments, and there were some testy exchanges, as republicans demanded to know how much the plan will cost.

As a key senate committee began work on a health care reform bill, democrats made some big promises. "This is about as historic as it gets for all of us," said Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

But republicans are demanding details, starting with a price tag. "We have this bill with no, uh, estimate as to how much it's supposed to cost," said Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona.

"Major sections are missing, costs can't be analyzed, implications of it haven't been fully thought out," said Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

Preliminary estimates start at more than a trillion dollars but democrats say Americans can't afford to wait any longer. "The same arguments against Medicare are the same arguments we're hearing now, government controlled, centralized bureaucracy ho hum, hum ho," said Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

House republicans are proposing their own plan, one that stresses competition among private insurers. "Republicans believe if you need health care, go see your doctor or nurse -- don't go see a government bureaucrat," said Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas.

Meanwhile, a group of former congressional leaders is urging both parties to meet in the middle.

On Capitol Hill, there's no shortage of ideas on how to fix health care, but no clear consensus on how to bring everyone together either.

The Senate Finance Committee is slowing down its work on health care reform as lawmakers try to get costs under a trillion dollars.