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Grassley: Finance Hopes to Release Health Care Reform Bill on Thursday

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has targeted Thursday of this week to unveil his committee’s health care reform bill, Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday afternoon.

“Baucus wants to put out something Thursday,— Grassley said. “I don’t know if it will be able to happen or not, but that’s what he wants to do.—

Baucus and Grassley have been negotiating a bipartisan health care deal for months, but several issues remain to be ironed out and have slowed the process, forcing the Finance chairman to abandon his original plan to mark up a bill in June. In particular, Finance needs to resolve differences over whether to implement a government-run insurance option as a part of reform, as well as how to pay for the expensive overhaul.

A committee spokesman on Monday declined to confirm or deny Grassley’s comments, using Baucus’ favorite line that legislation will be “ready when it’s ready.—

“Sen. Baucus has made clear the Finance Committee will be ready when it’s ready with a bill that can ensure quality, affordable care, lower costs and pass the Senate,— panel spokesman Scott Mulhauser said.

Baucus, talking to reporters Monday evening just off of the Senate floor, declined to elaborate on when his committee might be ready to mark up its bill, which is due to be merged with a second piece of health care reform legislation currently being marked up in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Baucus, who met at the White House Monday afternoon with President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders, described the meeting as very productive. But he noted that the specter of urgency was raised as far as getting a health care bill to the president’s desk.

“Sooner rather than later,— Baucus said, when asked if deadlines for completing legislation were discussed in the meeting. “I get the sense that the urgency barometer is going up.—