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Baucus Says No Markup Next Week on Health Bill

Updated: 7:40 p.m.Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Thursday night emerged from a meeting of the gang of six bipartisan health care negotiators to announce that there would be no markup of a bill next week, while stressing that the Senators were committed to seeing the ongoing talks to their conclusion.Baucus and Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) appeared jointly before reporters to dispel news reports that the negotiations had broken down amid pressure from the Democratic and Republican leadership teams. Baucus said the talks would pick up again next week and continue until the Senate adjourns for the August recess. There would be no meetings this weekend, he said.“It was really a great meeting — a very productive meeting,— Baucus said. “We are committed to finding a bipartisan solution as expeditiously as possible. We talked out the agenda, the issues. … We are committed to a full session next week — every day of next week.—But Baucus added: “It’s clear there will not be a markup next week. That’s clear. But nevertheless, we are as committed, if not more committed, to find a bipartisan agreement.—After the meeting of the bipartisan Finance Committee negotiators in Baucus’ Capitol hideaway, the Finance chairman headed to his personal office in the Hart Senate Office Building for a Democrats-only gathering of his committee.Grassley, meanwhile, denied that he has been pressured by GOP leaders to slow-walk the discussions or purposely refrain from agreeing to a deal. And, he argued, the looming Aug. 7 adjournment date for the summer recess has not affected the negotiations.“We have not been committed to deadlines. We’ve been committed to getting a job done, and that’s where we are today. That’s where we’ve been — Max and I — for five months. And, that’s where the six of us have been for the last month,— Grassley said, adding: “Do we look like we’ve been pressured?—Grassley blamed the media for suggesting any discord in the talks.“There was some indication at the bottom of one television station that there was some problem with Republicans,— Grassley said. “And I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any problem with Republicans — and there isn’t any problem. We’re working together, three of us here, to get the job done. And, so what you’re observing is a continuation of where we’ve been for doggone long time. The trouble is, you folks are looking for news, and there ain’t no news.—The gang of six includes Baucus, Grassley, Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).Enzi, red-faced and visibly agitated, hurriedly exited the meeting and did not participate in the impromptu news conference, as did the other five Senators. However, he did describe the session as “good.—Bingaman said the meeting resulted in “a general agreement that we want to do all we can next week to get some of the difficult issues resolved. That’s what everyone’s committed to.—But Bingaman said he did not expect any push to reach even a framework of a deal by the end of next week. “I doubt we’ll try to do that. There was no discussion of it.—Conrad added that the bipartisan group had pledged to continue meeting — by video conference if necessary — over the August recess.“We have a full schedule next week, a schedule during the August break and an absolute commitment to reaching an agreement,— Conrad said.

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