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Grassley Says Progress, but No Deal on Health Care

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Hawkeye State reporters Wednesday that bipartisan health care negotiators are making progress on a reform bill, but cautioned that some of the most difficult issues have yet to be resolved.

Grassley appeared to support suggestions made earlier in the day by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that the committee’s six negotiators — three Democrats and three Republicans — were closer than ever to reaching a broad agreement. But Grassley warned that the remaining items could take some time to work out, saying that while a deal might be near, it was not necessarily “imminent.—

“You could have 100 or 200 or 300 subsets of Medicare reform, and we’ve probably got 95 percent of them decided. So, I say we’re on the edge of having an agreement,— Grassley said during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters, according to a transcript provided by the Senator’s office. “But I mean, I’m saying out of the total number of things you’ve got to make decisions on, but the 5 percent that are left are very difficult, and I can’t say that we’re on the edge of getting them decided, but we’re making some progress by inches.—

The Finance negotiators were meeting again Wednesday afternoon. There were conflicting reports coming out from the group about the possibility of a Finance bill markup before the Senate adjourns for the August recess next Friday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he expects the markup to occur before the break, with Baucus saying today that significant progress has been made toward an agreement. But Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), a member of the gang of six negotiators, suggested Wednesday that, while progress continues, a deal remains a long way off.

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