Baucus, Grassley and Co. to meet with Obama Thursday

Aug 5, 2009 4:45pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: The six Senate Finance Committee members who have been holed up in closed-door negotiations for weeks, trying to find middle ground on health care reform, will travel to the White House to meet with President Obama on Thursday, according to a committee staffer. The lead Democratic negotiator, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, has said he keeps in almost daily telephone contact with the President, but this face to face meeting will place the President personally at the negotiating table. Democrats in the Senate are in damage control on health care reform – almost every Democrat in the Senate attended a closed-door meeting with the President yesterday on health care and they are taking a two hour break from debate on the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to hold an intensive tutorial on health reform and prepare themselves to sell the plan to constituents. Much of the remaining health reform debate will be framed as lawmakers return to their districts for the summer. Public support for the President’s health reform agenda has fallen recently and conservative protesters have made a spectacle, disrupting town hall meetings led by Democratic lawmakers. The bipartisan negotiators, three Democrats and three Republicans, have heretofore agreed to ignore deadlines for producing a bill set by both President Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid. But it seems clear that they have until the middle of September to produce a bill that can gain bipartisan support if Democrats are to avoid exploiting a parliamentary trick called reconciliation that would enable them to pass health care reform in a piecemeal way with a series of party line votes. The Finance negotiators have agreed to meet, even if only via teleconference, throughout August. After another closed-door session today, Baucus suggested they could also take their talks on the road, perhaps meeting in different states or with governors concerned about how states would afford their portion of a proposed Medicaid expansion.

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