Baucus: Big T for tentative

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

The bipartisan gang of Finance Committee negotiators has broken their closed-door negotiations for the day at so that the Democrats, including Chairman Max Baucus, can try to sell the elements they have tentative agreement on to the liberals on the committee.

Behind a door that read "Members and Staff Only," reporters caught glimpses of the Democrats in their shirtsleeves as the door opened.

Sen. Max Baucus, as he left the bipartisan meeting to meet with other Democrats, said the bipartisan negotiators had a good day and reached tentative agreement on another outstanding issue.

He qualified agreement on that issue: "Big T for tentative."

Most of the day, he said, was spent addressing how to make reform affordable for lower income Americans while addressing the concerns of states and governors who warn they could be bankrupted by an expansion of Medicaid.

While there is no deal among the bipartisan negotiators, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has said one draft proposal they are considering would accomplish what Democrats' plans would not - driving down the long-term health care costs that threaten to eat up the federal budget in the coming decades.

Baucus said CBO predicted their draft would cost $900 billion, but that it could be paid for with savings and tax hikes and that it would begin reversing the federal deficit within ten years.

What is in Baucus' draft is still a mystery and won't be released publicly until the bipartisan group can agree on a framework.

It is clear that it substitutes the bovernment-run public health insurance option preferred by President Obama and liberal Democrats for a series of non-profit co-ops that would be meant to compete with the private insurance industry.

Republicans negotiators have complained that Baucus is talking about a notional list of ideas and not concrete legislation they have agreed to.

The other principle Democrat in the bipartisan negotiations, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, was asked if the committee could produce a bill, as requested by President Obama, before their August recess begins after next week.

"Its possible but extremely challenging," Conrad said.

And to calls from Republican members of the bipartisan group of negotiators, chiefly Sen. Mike Enzi, R- Wyom, that he won't sign onto any bill until he sees legislative language, Conrad had a long explanation that boiled down to - legislative language for a Finance Committee Bill, which could raise taxes, wouldn't do anyone any good becuase so few people would understand it.

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