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Conferees Strike Deal on Stimulus

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said a bicameral deal on a $789.5 billion economic stimulus bill was nearly at hand early Wednesday afternoon, and he expressed confidence that the three Senate Republican votes needed for final passage are secure.

“The votes are there for passage. That’s clear,” Baucus said after emerging from a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office.

The meeting was also attended by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), and the trio of GOP moderates who voted for passage of the Senate bill: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

House and Senate conferees are expected to formalize the emerging conference deal at 3 p.m., but the Senate working group broke for lunch and expected to reconvene around 1:30 p.m. to finalize the plan.

Baucus said the House would likely pass the bill Thursday with the Senate following Friday, unless Republicans throw up procedural objections.

Baucus acknowledged that the conference has done “a lot of shaving” of various tax and spending programs including President Barack Obama’s signature payroll tax cut.

Nelson also emerged from the meeting optimistic that a deal was nearly at hand and said there are just a few more sticking points to be worked out.

“I don’t see anything that would constitute a deal breaker,” Nelson said of the remaining items.

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