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Finance Negotiators Say Progress Is Being Made on Health Bill

A closed-door meeting of bipartisan Senate Finance Committee negotiators broke up Monday night with lawmakers appearing increasingly optimistic that a deal was within reach, although no timetable was given for when a bill might be ready for markup.Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said after the meeting that the group of six Senators — three Democrats and three Republicans — have “tentatively— reached an agreement on four or five of the about 12 issues that need to be negotiated, although he declined to elaborate. The Finance Committee has struggled for weeks over how to pay for health care reform and keep the price tag under $1 trillion, as well how to bridge the divide over the federal government’s role in the overhaul.“These are big issues, not just small, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s,— Baucus told reporters in describing the significance of his committee’s progress. “I know we’re making headway.—Joining Baucus in this group of six were Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Republican Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa).Like Baucus, Conrad was also vague on the state of the talks, but equally optimistic. Conrad indicated that the work of Finance Committee staff this past weekend was productive.“It is laborious work, but it’s going very well,— said Conrad, the Budget Committee chairman. “It’s very clear the work over the weekend was very productive and got us a lot closer. So, that’s good news.—The bipartisan group of Finance negotiators is scheduled to continue its discussions Tuesday.