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The decision to proactively meet with the lobbyists isnt being made in a vacuum. Baucus, Democratic Senate leaders and Obama are hoping to bring stakeholders in early to avoid a repeat of Clintons failed 1993 effort. Clinton, along with then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, was roundly criticized for negotiating a plan with a small group of insiders and expecting Congressional and downtown buy-in.
A senior Democratic Senate aide said Baucus directive to the health care lobbyists and other stakeholders did not originate from the Senate Democratic Conferences leadership team. But this aide suggested that Baucus approach has leadership support.
I think they are trying to be as inclusive as possible and are trying to make it clear that they have an open door, said William Signer of the Carmen Group, who was at the meeting.
Sources also indicated that the Baucus aides laid out the expected timetable for the bill, saying Baucus would like to mark it up in June to meet the August floor deadline.
They told us we need to give Senators some space to roam, said another lobbyist in the meeting.
Others in the room concurred.
Basically, they were saying, Tell your clients that if they are smart, they will play this process the right way, but it doesnt mean cutting deals necessarily, said yet another Democratic lobbyist from the meeting.
David M. Drucker contributed to this report.