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Reid Predicts Democratic Consensus on Final Health Package

After a meeting with Senate Democrats on Thursday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) predicted that his Conference would overcome its differences and ultimately reach a consensus on a final health care package.Flanked by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), the No. 2 Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel, Reid acknowledged that Senators are still at odds over several key issues. But he was optimistic that negotiations between himself, Dodd, Baucus and the White House would lead to a bill that can bring Senate Democrats together.The next health care negotiating session is scheduled for Monday, Reid said. The first and only meeting among the principles was held Wednesday, one day after the Finance panel approved its version of a health care package, 14-9.“There are many competing views of how to best move health care reform. There are different views within my caucus. There are different views in the House,— Reid said. “As far as coming forward with a bill, progress is being made. … We must succeed with reform. It’s something the American people deserve.—“The White House participation in this has been very productive,— Reid added.Democratic Senators emerging from Thursday’s briefing said the session was an opportunity for Members to air their concerns and offer opinions on what a final bill should look like.Centrist Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) acknowledged that there was “tension— in the closed-door meeting but said that was natural “when you’re trying to merge two bills on a subject this important.—Still, he joked that the Conference was “tamer than a lot of town hall meetings.—Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said Senators were given a chance to advise leadership on what they want out of a final bill, which will be a combination of the Finance bill and the legislation approved in July by the HELP panel.Casey, who favors the public insurance option, said most of the Democratic Conference used the meeting to advocate for that provision. But the Pennsylvanian said he did not get the sense that Democratic leaders had made a decision on how to craft the final bill.“My sense listening to two different meetings today is that they’ve barely begun,— Casey said. “They’ve identified areas they have to work on, they’ve identified a process, but they haven’t really gotten to the substance yet.—

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