Baucus: White House 'Wants a Bipartisan Deal'
By Paul Kane
Exiting a 75-minute meeting tonight on Captiol Hill, Senate Democrats said the White House remained supportive of their effort to find GOP support for health-care legislation despite internal Democratic disputes over the inclusion of a public option in the emerging bill.
"Rahm said he wants a bipartisan plan," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told reporters, after leaving the meeting with President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Baucus dismissed suggestions that negotiations had hit such a rough patch that Democrats would use fast-track rules to pass legislation on a party-line vote. Sen Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a key member of the committee, also said the White
House supports continued outreach to Senate Republicans.
Emanuel told reporters Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) summoned him to the meeting, which consisted of members of the Finance and health committees -- which are drafting somewhat competing versions of the hallmark legislation.
"Senator Reid wanted us to hear some of their thoughts and ideas," said Emanuel, who said every senator was given a turn to air his or her views on the issue.
Each senator leaving the meeting described it as productive, although Baucus called it a "necessary" gathering. His panel has not included a publicly funded alternative to private insurance in his draft legislation, in part because of entrenched GOP opposition to such a plan.
The health committee intends to include the public plan, setting an internal dispute among Democrats over resolving the issue later this summer.
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