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Reid Predicts Health Care to Hit Floor by August

Roused by President Barack Obama’s address to Congress on Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) followed suit Wednesday by laying out an ambitious agenda and predicting the Senate will begin debating health care legislation by the August recess.

“There’s so much we need to do, as indicated last night,” Reid said at a press conference with Democratic leadership. “We’re here today to pledge that we’re going to work with Republicans and the administration to get things done.”

Reid said he spoke Tuesday with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and expects his ailing colleague to preside over the health care debate when it hits the Senate floor later this year. Kennedy has been in Florida for several weeks as he battles brain cancer.

“He has worked with Sen. Baucus, [and] I think we’re doing quite well,” Reid said.

Reid said the Senate will also take up legislation on housing and energy in the next six weeks.

Meanwhile, Senate leaders are working on securing votes for a proposal — likely to be included in the forthcoming housing bill — to allow bankruptcy judges to write down the terms of primary residence mortgages. Similar legislation is currently moving through the House.

“Many of the banks, a few have come out publicly for it,” Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, adding that, “Many of the others say, ‘We are not as vehemently opposed to it as we were.’”

Energy will be tackled on two fronts, Reid said, with the Senate moving first on a renewable energy bill — which he called “the so-called low-hanging fruit”—before passing a climate change bill. Reid demurred on predicting a timeline for climate change legislation, but said an energy bill will be moved before the April recess.

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