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At the White House, Baucus Pledges Swift Health Care Action

Updated: 5:38 p.m.Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday said the House and Senate should pass health care bills by the summer recess, negotiate a conference report in September and get a bill to the president’s desk by October. Baucus, who spoke after a meeting between President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats on the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Obama indicated during the session that he may take a look at taxing employer-provided benefits to help pay for a health care bill.“He said it’s something that he might consider,” Baucus told reporters, adding that Obama indicated “all options are on the table.”White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said Obama emphasized his preference in the meeting for his own pay-for, which would reduce itemized deductions for higher-income taxpayers.“The president made it clear during the campaign that he has serious concerns about taxing health care benefits, and he has introduced his own revenue proposal, which he reiterated in today’s meeting,” Cherlin said. “He stated again his belief that health reform can’t wait another year, and that while all options should be considered, those options should include the revenue proposals that he included in his budget. He made it very clear that he prefers the approach he has already outlined.”Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who is taking the lead on the HELP panel for the ailing Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), said that despite the absence of Republicans from today’s meeting and from an earlier health care event at the White House, Democrats continue to hope for a bipartisan bill.Dodd said he will be having dinner Tuesday night with HELP ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).As the White House meeting got under way, Obama said he had spoken earlier in the day to Kennedy, saying that the Senator is “gung-ho and ready to go” and had “a whole range of ideas” for moving the bill.Obama expressed determination to get the bill done this year and said he was committed to including cost-saving reforms in the bill.

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