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Health Care Stakes Heat Up--Kennedy, Baucus Meet With Obama

Keep in mind that Democrats have an ace up their sleeve in form of the reconciliation process. Nobody expects the Senate to sign on for a HELP-style bill, but if Republicans don't get on board with something (like, say, the Finance bill) the Democrats can pass the HELP legislation via the budget process.

Meanwhile, if Republicans in the Senate do play along, the bills can be merged into a single piece of legislation, that looks, for the most part like the Finance Committee's proposal. Then the House (where Henry Waxman's Energy and Commerce Committee takes the lead) can pass something along the lines of the Kennedy bill, and the final reform bill will be negotiated in conference committee.

That syncs with the political direction Democratic party leaders have been saying the reform process will take for some time. There's virtual unanimity among Democratic leaders on the Hill that the reconciliation process should be both a bargaining chip, and a tool of last resort, but that ideally a bill will pass through regular order. That's why it makes sense for the Senate to advance two very different bills.

We'll try to get you more details on yesterday's meeting, but keep this bigger political picture in mind as the legislative process moves forward.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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