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Reid: Deal Is Close; Staff Work Expected This Weekend

Updated: 7:18 p.m.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said House and Senate health care negotiators are “pretty close— to a deal after a third day of meetings at the White House on Friday.“We did well today,— Reid told reporters.Reid said the group of top House and Senate leaders and key chairmen had “agreed on some things,— and he indicated that those agreements were in the hands of staffers who he said would work through the weekend.“Staff will be working on stuff we did. I’m not,— Reid said of weekend meetings. “There will be no Member involvement unless we get calls or something.—Democratic sources said Congressional leaders were attempting to get a prospective deal to the Congressional Budget Office for an official cost estimate as soon as this weekend.“The goal is to send something to CBO as quickly as possible,— one Democratic source said. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting close.—Though tentative deals on most major issues appear to have been worked out, the source said the “key— outstanding issues are concern over abortion and immigration provisions. Leaders in both chambers were expected to reach out to Members concerned about those issues, the source said.Abortion proved a sticky issue in both chambers with anti-abortion-rights Democrats demanding language that would prohibit federal health insurance subsidies from paying for private policies that offer abortion coverage.But even if those items get resolved, House and Senate leaders are unlikely to discuss the details of a deal until CBO returns its score.White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass issued a statement, saying: “Today’s meeting capped a week’s worth of productive discussions about bringing down costs, providing more stability and security for those with insurance, and expanding coverage to those who don’t have it. We’ve worked through the gamut of issues in great depth, but there are no final agreements and no overall package. The next step in the process is to evaluate the costs and savings associated with the various proposals for each tenet of the legislation. The President and congressional leaders are committed to delivering a bill that increases the affordability of health insurance for the American people at the lowest cost to the taxpayer.—Douglass noted the president attended the entire meeting, which lasted from 1:30 to 3:45 p.m. Besides Reid, other Congressional Democrats who attended included Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (Calif.), House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.), Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin (Iowa), and Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (Conn.).White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro also participated.Jessica Brady contributed to this report.

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