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Baucus Kicks Off Health Markup; Says ‘Time Has Come’ for Reform

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday kicked off the markup of his $856 billion health care package, invoking Harry Truman, the first Democratic president to call for universal health insurance, and saying “the time has come to reform America’s health care.—

“No one should die because they can’t afford health care,— Baucus said before the packed Hart Senate Office Building committee room.“This bill would fix that.—

Monday night, Baucus was in the process of making changes to his $856 billion package to try to satisfy Democratic panel members’ concerns. During his opening statement, the Montana Democrat touted his bill as “designed to get the 60 votes it needs to pass— — a clear shot at the more liberal bills approved by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and three House panels.

But signaling that the Finance legislation faces an uphill battle in getting broad Senate support, committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) spent the majority of his opening statement criticizing several aspects of the package. Grassley and two other Finance Republicans spent several months working with Baucus and two other Finance Democrats to try to negotiate a bipartisan health care reform, but to no avail.

“It seems to me that some people in the Senate would rather have [health care reform legislation] done right now, than have it done right,— Grassley said.

Baucus said Monday evening following a meeting of Finance Democrats that he expected the markup to conclude by week’s end. However, some Senators have questioned that timeline, given the 564 amendments that had been filed against the bill.

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