Baucus: "Praying Might Be Helpful Here"

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports:

What to read into one side of a cell phone conversation between Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer?

There has not been a lot of news out of the Senate Finance Committee’s closed-door negotiations this week. The Democrats at the negotiating table come out several times and give us relatively un-enlightening updates.

But our cameras are in front of Sen. Max Baucus’ (finance committee chairman, moderate Democrat, and chief bipartisan negotiator) office all day long.

As he entered his office to resume negotiations this afternoon, Baucus was on a cell phone and can be heard to say into the phone, “Praying might be helpful here.”

Who knows who he was talking to or what about CNN’s Dana Bash reported that he was talking to House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer. Maybe they were talking about church. Maybe they were talking about the Nationals. Or the Orioles. Praying would be appropriate in any case. More likely its health care reform, which is dragged out in the Senate and in danger by nervous moderate Democrats in the House.

If he was talking about his negotiations, seeking divine intervention makes things sound a bit more dire than Baucus did earlier in the day when, in press conference mode, he told reporters, “We are making still more progress than even before. Today we spent the entire two hours on a major savings option and actually someone had some new ideas and that took some time for the staff to think through how that would work. But there was no closure on that option, but great headway on that savings option. Very significant and it was kind of exciting actually,” Baucus said.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Baucus said his boss was joking with Hoyer when he made the comment and not, at that point, giving an assessment of Finance Committee health reform negotiations.

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