Negotiations Will Resume at White House Thursday Night

Posted January 14, 2010 at 4:49pm

Updated: Jan. 14, 6:48 p.m.

House and Senate health care negotiators plan to reconvene at the White House at 9 p.m. Thursday evening, after President Barack Obama speaks to House Democrats.

One Democratic source said Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) participated in talks Thursday, likely because he and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have emerged as the linchpins to passage of any House-Senate compromise in their chamber. Lieberman and Nelson could be key to whether the Senate agrees to include a national, rather than state-based, health insurance exchange in the bill.

The source said the talks have been “productive— but that the session is expected to continue on Friday.

Prior to returning to the White House at 9 p.m. for the resumption of the negotiations, at least five of the Senators participating in the talks met on their own.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Banking, Housing and Urban Development Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) convened in Baucus’ office in the Hart Senate Office Building around 6 p.m. to compare notes and discuss the progress of the negotiations.

However, all five Senators declined to comment on their way into Baucus’ office when asked for an update on the White House negotiations.

Harkin, when asked whether the final, negotiated bill would include a national exchange, just laughed. Similarly, Dodd quipped about the food being better at the White House when asked if the negotiations might conclude by this weekend.

“We’re working really hard,— Baucus said.

David M. Drucker contributed to this report.