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Baucus Assures Health Care Bill Will Hit Floor Before August

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) declined Monday evening to predict when his committee would begin marking up its health care reform bill, although he appeared to virtually guarantee legislation would hit the floor before the August recess.

“Clearly,” Baucus said of the bill’s pre-recess timing. “Not a question.”

“Everything’s a step at a time,” Baucus added, regarding when his committee’s markup would begin. “We’re ready when we’re ready. We’re getting there.”

Baucus is attempting to negotiate a bipartisan deal on major health care reform. Doing so has drawn out the process in Finance, where Democrats and Republicans continue to haggle over key issues, including whether to include a government-run insurance option, the cost of the overhaul and how to pay for it.

Baucus remains optimistic that a bipartisan deal is achievable, saying Senators “want to get to ‘yes.’” But at least one key Republican on the Finance Committee appears skeptical.

“Max is having a difficult time bringing Democrats along. And with some of the approaches that they need to get Democrats, Republicans are getting ulcers over it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday evening. “So, there’s a lot of work that really has to be done.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to continue the markup of its health care reform bill. The process in the Senate calls for the Finance and HELP bills to be merged into one vehicle for floor consideration.

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