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Baucus Says Major Hurdle Cleared on Health Care Bill

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced Thursday his committee has pared the cost of its health care package, although Republicans on the panel remain skeptical.

Baucus, emerging from a closed-door Finance Committee meeting Thursday morning, told reporters that the Congressional Budget Office had scored a package of health care reform policy options at under $1 trillion and deficit neutral.

“We are much closer on the scores than we were at this point last week. We now have options that the Congressional Budget Office tells us would be under $1 trillion and fully paid for,— Baucus said. “Based on these developments, I’m increasingly confident in our ability to move forward.—

Finance Republicans said they have not seen language yet, and declined to comment on Baucus’ remarks. While hopeful, it was clear they were withholding judgement until they reviewed the details.

“We haven’t seen the specific provisions and concepts that have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office,— Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said.

Baucus “is working very hard to try and find some way to do a bipartisan bill,— Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) added. “We’re certainly listening. … It would be wonderful if we could come to a bipartisan bill.—

Snowe said she expects to see details of Baucus’ plan Thursday afternoon.

Baucus is attempting to craft a bipartisan compromise. Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is in the midst of marking up a decidedly liberal bill, with the process calling for the two committees’ legislation to be merged.

The Finance bill is set to be marked up after Congress returns from the July Fourth recess.

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