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Snowe, Nelson Meet With Reid, Lay Out Health Care Priorities

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), two key moderates, met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Wednesday morning — their second meeting with the leader this week as a part of their ongoing effort to shape the final Senate health care reform bill.

Snowe said she and Nelson discussed several issues with Reid, but she declined to provide details. Snowe, however, said that whatever emerges, it would be hard to hold a vote on a final, amended bill by the end of November given the steps that remain to introduce the package, debate it and consider amendments to it. Democratic leaders in both chambers had hoped to hold votes on their health care packages by Thanksgiving.

“That would be optimistic,— Snowe said, when asked if a final vote could occur before December. “That would be my sense.—

The final Senate health care reform bill is currently being negotiated by Reid, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and senior White House officials. The talks, which continue this evening, are designed to blend two competing health care bills previously approved by the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.

Snowe said she is in constant contact with a number of Democratic moderates, including Nelson. She said she and Nelson used their discussions with Reid on Wednesday to lay out their priorities for the final health care reform bill. Snowe was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the Finance Committee’s version of a health care plan. Snowe described the talks with Reid as an effort to “just keep building bridges on issues.—