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Two Senate Panels Confirm Plan to Move Separate Health Bills

By Drew Armstrong, CQ Staff

April 15, 2009 -- The Senate Finance Committee and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have solidified their plans to move separate health care overhaul bills that will eventually be combined on the floor, likely after markups that are targeted for early summer.

Aides to both committees confirmed the plans Wednesday.

"This has sort of always been the plan," said an aide to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. "We're talking to each other to ensure that the two committee products can be merged on the floor," said the aide.

The two committees are working closely together to coordinate the separate pieces of legislation, according to aides, especially with respect to jurisdictional issues.

"Chairman Kennedy believes strongly that having one legislative approach is the best way to guarantee quality and affordable healthcare for the American people," said Anthony Coley, spokesman for HELP panel Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. "He and Chairman Baucus are working very closely together. They have established a joint process that will culminate in complementary legislation on the floor by early summer."

Baucus and Kennedy each have working groups where committee staff meet regularly with industry and lobby organizations. Aides to the two committees also meet with each other every other Friday to discuss their health care overhaul efforts.

The Finance Committee is expected to mark up a bill in June, with the goal of floor action soon after. The HELP Committee has set a markup for around that time, but an aide would not reveal the exact date.

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