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Reid Reassures Finance Panel Republicans

Senate Finance Committee Republicans emerged Wednesday afternoon from a meeting with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying the sides had agreed to continue bipartisan health reform talks within the committee — and that the negotiations would not be subject to artificial timelines.But sources familiar with the Finance talks said the panel will not make enough headway by Friday to begin marking up a bill next week.Although Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has not promised a start date for a markup, continued delays could derail plans by Senate Democrats to pass a bill out of the chamber before the August recess.A Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday the goal “is still to get a bill off of the floor by the start of the August recess.”Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and his GOP colleagues said they were pleased with the session with Reid.“It was a very constructive meeting, and bipartisan talks are going to continue — and not continue under a very hard timeline,” Grassley said. Republican Finance members Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), who joined Grassley in the meeting with Reid, concurred. Baucus, meanwhile, continued his efforts to reach a bipartisan health care deal, meeting with Finance Democrats and Republicans Wednesday afternoon.Baucus originally planned to begin marking up his bill in late June but abandoned that schedule as a bipartisan agreement remained elusive. He has said repeatedly this week that a Finance markup would begin “when we’re ready.”The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continued its health care markup on Wednesday. Democratic leaders intend to merge the Finance and HELP bills.On Tuesday, Reid warned Baucus that the price of gaining Republican support for a health care bill could be too high for many Democrats. Reid strongly urged Baucus to draft a bill with policy components more acceptable to Democrats.However, the comments of Grassley, Enzi and Snowe following their meeting with Reid suggested the Majority Leader’s tone might have shifted. Reid’s office was not immediately available for comment.

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