While the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continued Wednesday to mark up its health care reform bill, the Senate Finance Committee was hunkered down in negotiations on its version, with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) shuttling between closed-door meetings to try to reach a consensus.Optimism about a bipartisan outcome appears high among key Democrats and Republicans who serve on Finance, even as the GOP Members of the HELP Committee complain that their markup has devolved into a partisan exercise. The process for approving health care reform in the Senate calls for merging the Finance and HELP bills into a single measure. Finance is set to begin its markup after the July Fourth recess.Senators want to get to yes, Baucus said upon exiting a private meeting of Democrats and Republicans who serve on Finance. It was very encouraging.That session followed a previous meeting of Finance Democrats. Another meeting of committee Democrats is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.Prior to entering the meeting, Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) indicated that progress was being made toward resolving partisan differences. But the Iowa Republican suggested that there is much left to negotiate before any deal can be struck.Senators are still working to bridge the divide on the government-run insurance option Democrats are generally supportive, the GOP tends to oppose as well as the role of employers in health care reform and how to pay for the overhaul.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.