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Senate Negotiators Weigh Public Option

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) confirmed Wednesday evening that negotiators working toward a final health care bill discussed the public insurance option, but he declined to divulge details.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is leading the negotiations, said there was progress but cautioned that no decisions were made Wednesday. Manley said another round of negotiations are tentatively scheduled for Thursday evening.

Baucus said the talks were frank.

“Everybody laid it all out. This is where it is, no beating around the bush … Now it’s got to marinate and percolate a little bit,— Baucus told reporters following Wednesday’s negotiating session.

Baucus said the negotiators discussed several issues, including the public insurance option and employer responsibility. “Basically, how to put Humpty-Dumpty together here,— the Finance Chairman said.

Manley demurred when asked when the negotiations might complete, saying Reid’s goal is to “get it right,— although the Majority Leader hopes to move as quickly as possible. Manley confirmed that the final Senate health care bill would not be ready for floor consideration next week.

The negotiators include Reid, Baucus, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Budget Director Peter Orszag, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy-Ann DeParle, President Barack Obama’s chief health care advisor.