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Grassley Mum on Baucus’ Health Care Plan

Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on the framework for a health care reform bill unveiled over the weekend by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).Grassley was on his way into a meeting of the gang of six Finance Committee negotiators. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of three GOP Finance negotiators, also declined to comment on Baucus’ proposal.“No, I don’t think I can,— Grassley said, when asked if he could give reporters his initial assessment of Baucus’ outline.“Don’t read anything into anything I’ve said,— he added, when asked if his silence should be interpreted as his not liking Baucus’ proposal.Baucus circulated a proposal over the weekend to try to jump-start the bipartisan talks that have essentially been in a holding pattern since the Senate adjourned for the August recess more than a month ago. Even before the break, the talks appeared to be on thin ice.Baucus had set a deadline of Sept. 15 for the talks to bear fruit or he would pursue other avenues for advancing a health care reform bill. But in light of President Barack Obama’s decision to address Congress on Wednesday night on the issue, Baucus decided to press ahead more quickly. He plans to vet his framework with the gang of six Tuesday afternoon to determine if the negotiations should continue.Enzi, while refusing to comment on Baucus’ proposal, indicated he’d prefer to see the talks through.“I’d hate to think that I spent all these hours doing this, for nothing,— he said.Not surprisingly, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — a moderate whom Democrats see as their most likely GOP ally — said there is much to like about Baucus’ proposal. But she also said a lot remains to be negotiated. “There are a number of promising elements,— she said.Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) both indicated there is plenty to like about Baucus’ outline, although they declined to offer their endorsement.It is a “very professional, highly credible effort,— Conrad said, on is way into the meeting.

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