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Reid Sees Progress in Health Talks, but Work Remains

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday evening described the negotiations toward a final health care reform bill as “extremely rewarding,— but indicated that significant work remains before the process is complete.Reid, speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s negotiating session, said the negotiators have yet to reach the point of actually merging the two competing Senate health care reform bills that are to be the basis of the final floor vehicle. But the Majority Leader said the talks thus far have been fruitful.“We’ve had some very good meetings today,— Reid said. “We’re not completely to the point where the two bills are put together. But we’re making a lot of progress. … I feel very, very good about where we are, and where we’re going.—White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a key player in the negotiations, agreed, flashing a thumbs-up to reporters and saying as he left Reid’s office Tuesday evening, “We made good progress.—The talks, which involve melding the bills approved by the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, are scheduled to reconvene around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Among the small group of negotiators are Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who managed the markup of the HELP bill that includes several liberal reform priorities, and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), whose bill excluded those provisions.Reid declined to divulge details of what the principals discussed. But the Majority Leader did open a window into the process, saying they cover “a number— of issues per meeting. Reid said everyone knows what issues are going to be discussed ahead of time, so that there are no surprises.“I’ve been very satisfied. There’s been no loud voices. The staffs are working very, very well together,— Reid said.Reid also indicated he will try to move forward Wednesday with a $245 billion package to extend Medicare payments to doctors.The legislation, which would prevent cuts in doctors’ Medicare reimbursement rates, has been stalled due to opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats because the bill would add to the federal deficit.

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