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Democrats Nearing Deal on Reconciliation

Updated: 9:12 p.m.

House and Senate Democratic leaders and White House officials were optimistic Wednesday evening that they were nearing a deal on a reconciliation package that would smooth the way for them to finally complete health care reform.

Congressional leaders and senior administration officials met in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office late in the day to hammer out a deal on reconciliation, meant to act as a sidecar of adjustments to the original $871 billion Senate-passed health care reform bill.

House Democratic leaders will walk their rank and file through portions of the package in a Thursday morning meeting,
a leadership aide said.

Chief among the topics discussed Wednesday evening was whether to insert the student loan package into the health care reconciliation bill. Pelosi is pushing for it, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), responding to concerns from Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), has been resisting.

Reid declined to talk specifics as he exited the meeting. But he sounded optimistic that Democratic leaders were on the verge of a deal on the reconciliation package.

“We are making progress. A lot of decisions were made,” Reid said. “I really do believe that the goal we’ve been seeking for such a long time — health care reform — is going to be done. We don’t have it all worked out, but we made a lot of progress.”

Reid refused to speculate on a deadline for reaching a deal. President Barack Obama has said he’d like Congress to get health care done this month, and lawmakers are set to head out on a two-week recess beginning March 26.

Sources said the House and Senate Parliamentarians also attended the meeting to advise on reconciliation rules.

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.

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