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Baucus Vows to Win Finance Committee Approval for Deal

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday that any deal reached by the committee’s gang of six negotiators must win approval from a majority of the panel prior to legislation being marked up.Baucus spoke to reporters following a closed-door meeting of Finance Democrats. Baucus has been leading talks between Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa).No markup would begin until Baucus briefed the Finance Democrats and Grassley informed the Republicans and there was enough of a consensus to move forward, he said. Baucus said it was possible that those briefings could generate changes to the bill that would have to be agreed to by the six negotiators and then reviewed again by the full committee.“I made it clear to the group, too, that any proposal that the group of six comes up with will be just that: a proposal,— Baucus said in regard to his meeting this morning with Finance Democrats. “This is just part of the process. I can’t negotiate a proposal with all members of the Finance Committee in the same room. There’s just too many people.—Baucus comments come as some of his Democratic Senate colleagues grow increasingly frustrated with the pace of the talks and the amount of information Baucus is offering on their progress. Once the Finance bill is marked up, it must be merged with legislation that already passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, with a floor debate coming only after those steps have been completed. The time required for the markup, merger and floor vote has put in jeopardy the timeline for clearing a bill before the August recess.Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said he has felt left out of the bipartisan negotiations in Finance, but he indicated that Thursday morning’s meeting left him feeling optimistic and went a long way toward clearing things up. Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), a key member of the Finance Committee, also gave the session good reviews.“We got into more detail than we ever have,— Schumer said.The group of six negotiators is set to reconvene Thursday afternoon.

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