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Grassley and Reid to Huddle Wednesday on Health Care Reform

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is scheduled Wednesday morning to meet with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss whether there is a bipartisan way forward on health care reform, according to Republican sources.

Grassley’s meeting with Reid comes the wake of the Majority Leader’s decision to more directly insert himself into the health care reform negotiations. Reid on Tuesday strongly urged Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to stop chasing Grassley’s vote on a health care bill, saying that the price for the Iowa Republican’s support was too high because it would cost critical Democratic support.

Reid told reporters on Tuesday that he wants to work with the GOP, and he referred to this morning’s scheduled meeting as evidence of that. Republican sources confirmed that Grassley is among those who requested Wednesday’s meeting with Reid, and said other GOP Senators may also join in including Finance panel members Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

“Grassley is one of the Senators who requested the meeting in order to try to come to an understanding on processing a potential bipartisan bill on the floor, as well as conference,— a Republican source said.

Baucus and Grassley have been working for months on a bipartisan health care compromise. But disagreements have ensued over whether to include a government-run insurance option and how to pay for the health care overhaul. Reid told Baucus on Tuesday that satisfying Republican opposition to a robust government component would cost too many Democratic votes.

Reid also told Baucus that paying for health care reform by taxing health benefits is a nonstarter for most Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continues to mark up a partisan Democratic bill that lacks GOP support. The plan in the Senate is to merge the Finance and HELP bills, but delays in Finance have spawned questions as to whether that process will hold.

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