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Senate Democrats to Hold Back-to-Back Health Care Meetings

The Senate Democratic Conference is scheduled to convene a special caucus on Wednesday afternoon to bone up on health care policy as Members prepare to head home for the August recess to market President Barack Obama’s No. 1 domestic priority.The Conference meeting comes one day before another scheduled health care meeting between Senate Democrats and White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina. Axelrod and Messina’s Capitol Hill session with Senators is expected to focus on political messaging.Wednesday’s caucus will feature presentations by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), the No. 2 Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Democratic leadership staff, according to Senate Democratic aides.Baucus is hoping to negotiate a bipartisan health care bill with three Republicans and two other Democrats on his committee; Dodd led the markup of a health care bill in HELP that was passed out of that committee last month on a party-line vote. Democratic leaders plan to merge the competing measures into one bill for floor consideration.The Senate Republican Conference is scheduled Wednesday to hold its weekly meeting on health care.These meetings, which most Senate Republicans have been attending, were originally designed to keep Senators informed on health care policy developments. But in the past few weeks, the meetings have also featured Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), who are part of Baucus’ group of negotiators on the health care package. Grassley and Enzi have been briefing their colleagues on the progress of those talks.The Finance negotiators are set to reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Baucus’ Hart Building office.

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