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Snowe Unlikely to Immediately Back Baucus Health Bill

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) signaled Tuesday she is unlikely to immediately support Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (R-Mont.) health care reform bill when he formally introduces it Wednesday, but emphasized strongly that she is prepared to jump on board in the coming days.Snowe has participated in the gang of six Finance panel talks since June and is viewed as the most likely of the three Republicans involved to support the group’s final product. But Snowe said key details of the bill have not been finalized to her satisfaction, and she expressed some unhappiness with the pace of the process.However, Snowe made clear that even if she does not immediately support Baucus’ bill, she isn’t rejecting it outright. Snowe, who said she would keep negotiating with panel members, said her comfort level may increase once additional scoring of the measure is available from the Congressional Budget Office.“I’ll issue my statement tomorrow. But that’s not the end of the process, tomorrow. It’s just the beginning. So, I wouldn’t read too much into it,— Snowe told reporters, upon exiting the weekly Republican Conference lunch. “We’ve had discussions. And one of my concerns has been — and I’ve indicated them — is at the end of the process, we should have an opportunity to have a completed document that would then be subsequently submitted to the Congressional Budget Office for the final scores. I thought that that was important.—“That’s not going to be completed. So this process, in that sense, will not have been completed, even if we agree on all the other issues in reading the language,— Snowe continued. “That’s the hard part with this deadline.—Baucus has said he intends to formally introduce the Finance Committee health care reform bill Wednesday, with a legislative markup to begin Sept. 22. Baucus said he intends to keep negotiating with the gang of six, hoping to attract broad GOP support before the bill is approved by the committee.The Finance negotiators include Baucus, Snowe, Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.). The gang of six is scheduled to hold another negotiating session at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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