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Finance Democrats Planning Amendments to Health Care Bill

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) met Monday evening with the Democrats on his committee to brief them on the pending health care reform legislation, with Members saying afterward that they plan to offer amendments during next week’s markup to change provisions they find problematic.Baucus said he did not expect the Democratic amendments to make any attempt to gut the framework of the bill, which he continues to negotiate with a bipartisan group of Finance members. Baucus confirmed that he would formally introduce his bill on Wednesday with or without the support of the three Republicans among the six negotiators.“The basic point is, we’re moving ahead. I explained that I’m going to put out a mark Wednesday,— Baucus told reporters following the meeting. “Markup will begin on Tuesday next week, and [we’ll] just start moving ahead.—The group of six Finance negotiators — Baucus, ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.), and GOP Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) — are scheduled to meet again Tuesday afternoon.Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) said upon exiting Monday’s Democrats-only meeting that the Finance bill is “coming together,— adding that he believes the committee is on its way to passing legislation.He said he has some problems with Baucus’ framework, particularly in the area of industry fees that have been proposed to help keep the forthcoming bill deficit-neutral. But his overall assessment of the process was positive.“I think there are some places where we can have some very fair argument,— Kerry said.Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also expressed reservations with portions of Baucus’ framework, particularly in the area of affordability. Wyden indicated he plans to introduce amendments in the markup process to address his concerns.“At this point in the debate, the flashpoint is all about affordability,— he said.Baucus conceded that Democrats would seek to change portions of the bill but said he does not expect amendments that would substantially alter the legislation.“I don’t expect any amendments of which will in any significant way run counter,— Baucus said. “I think the amendments — and I expect amendments and there should be amendments, my gosh — will be refinements, will be improvements. But I don’t see any deal-breakers.—

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