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Finance Markup Likely to Continue Next Week

The Senate Finance Committee’s health care markup now appears likely to spill over into next week, due in large part to the sheer number of amendments filed against Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) bill.The markup continued apace Thursday, with Finance members bracing for a third consecutive late night of amendment consideration, as well as a Friday session. But Baucus, who had hoped to conclude the markup by week’s end, hedged when asked if that goal would be met. Still, the Finance chairman said he was happy with the progress on his $900 billion plan so far. “I’m happy with it. It’s a huge, big bill. We’re going through amendments,— Baucus said Thursday afternoon. In attempting to maintain a healthy clip, Baucus is facing two key political challenges that go beyond the practical hurdle of working through as many as 564 amendments, the total filed against the bill. Even though the Montana Democrat modified his original proposal to address his party’s concerns, several of the committee’s Democrats have lingering issues with the bill.“Certainly, the changes haven’t been made at this point,— Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “I continue to talk to colleagues and the White House, and they certainly haven’t been up to this point.—One major markup fight fueled by the Democrats is scheduled to begin Friday morning, when Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is set to offer an amendment to replace the bill’s nonprofit health insurance cooperatives with a public insurance option. Much drama can be expected when Members debate the amendment, although it does not appear the proposal has the votes to pass.Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Republicans would likely offer more than 100 amendments before the markup concludes.“If we filed [more than] 260, I can’t imagine offering fewer than half of those,— Kyl said, adding that the markup would likely last “several more days.—Meanwhile, the mood of the markup has been fraught with tension, with Baucus and Kyl having another testy exchange Thursday over what the Finance chairman claimed were GOP delay tactics. Since the markup began, Baucus has repeatedly called a vote on an amendment, only to have the Republicans object that they are not finished debating the measure. Kyl told reporters following Thursday’s dust-up that Baucus and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) have talked more than anyone else, and that the chairman needs to remember to employ civility when dealing with other Members.“If you look at the total amount of time Democrats have talked, and the total amount of time Republicans have talked, the total amount of time Baucus and Conrad have talked versus anybody else — Republicans are not filibustering, and certainly, I’m not,— Kyl said. “So I was frankly a little surprised and disappointed when the first time I talked today … I was very rudely interrupted by the chairman. That’s not commonly done in the Senate. You know we have comity to each other and you let each other finish speaking, I understand he wants to move it along, but he has to figure out a way to do this in a courteous way that respects Senators’ right to speak.—One Senate Democratic source dismissed Kyl’s complaints and said the Republicans are playing games and employing tactics to delay approval of the bill.“Since the Republicans can’t win arguments on the merits and can’t win amendments with enough votes, it looks like they are resorting to desperate tactics to try to hem, haw, bloviate, stall and delay,— this Democratic source said. “Spending hours defending big insurance companies scaring seniors? [It’s] junior varsity stuff.—

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