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Baucus Team Plans Strategy for Amending Health Bill

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his Democratic colleagues on the committee are working to develop a consensus on how to amend his $856 billion health care bill in advance of next week’s markup, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said late Thursday upon exiting a Democrats-only meeting of the panel.Schumer, the Senate Democratic Conference vice chairman, said Finance Democrats are charting a path that seeks agreement among themselves — and possibly with moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine). Schumer described the meeting as detailed and collegial, which is notable given the criticism Baucus’ package received from Democrats upon its Wednesday unveiling.“I think there’s a view on the part of the chairman and on the part of just about everyone who was there to try and come up with a consensus that every Democrat, and perhaps Olympia Snowe, could support,— Schumer said. “I would say, just about everyone in the room thought it’s doable.—“Chairman Baucus wisely said, ‘We are going to try to get a Democratic consensus before we mark up,’— Schumer added.Also Thursday evening, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) emerged from the meeting more optimistic about the direction of the Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, albeit just as opposed to the legislation in its current form.Rockefeller, the chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, announced this week he would vote against Baucus’ bill — in large part because it proposes to implement nonprofit medical cooperatives instead of the public insurance option. However, Rockefeller appears to have tempered his criticism, if not his opposition.“There was quite a good deal of consensus. I came out of [the meeting] feeling pretty good,— Rockefeller told reporters. “I haven’t changed my position on anything.—Neither Schumer nor Rockefeller would address how the moderate and liberal Democrats on the committee will be able to reach a compromise on the contentious issues dividing them. Republicans on Finance remain almost unanimously opposed to Baucus’ bill.The Finance Committee is set to begin marking up Baucus’ legislation next Tuesday, and the Democrats met to discuss their strategy on how to handle the amendment process. Rockefeller said the Senators also discussed how to address the affordability question.Several Democrats have expressed concern that the individual mandate to purchase insurance that is in the bill would be unaffordable for middle-class Americans.

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