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Baucus Looking for Language to Limit Abortion Funding in Health Bill

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) indicated that Senate Finance negotiators are narrowing in on language that would prohibit any health care bill from paying for abortions.But he said he is seeking “neutral— language that “maintains the status quo.—“I think it’s important to remember here that this is a health care bill and not an abortion bill,— he said.Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the discussion among the bipartisan gang of six negotiators this afternoon consisted primarily of talk about how to make sure no federal dollars would be used to pay for abortions. However, he declined to elaborate on how that might affect private health insurers that want to participate in a government-sponsored health care exchange, or whether it would affect the kinds of services nonprofit health insurance cooperatives could offer.The bill would create health insurance marketplaces for consumers to shop for service, as well as a network of co-ops that would get their seed money from the federal government.Baucus also noted that he pulled the five other negotiators – Conrad, ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) — into his private office without staff to assess their willingness to reach a bipartisan agreement in the near future.“I pulled everybody out of the conference room to go into my personal office … for a half hour to 45 minutes, to get down to the bottom line — ‘Okay, where is everybody here? What’s going on here? Are we going to get a deal here?’ That was fruitful. I think all six really do want agreement,— Baucus said.Baucus said it is unlikely he will be able to introduce his bill Tuesday as originally planned, but that his mark should be ready by Wednesday.

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