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White House Reporters: Where's The Health Bill?

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The White House is facing media impatience over the pace of Senate health legislation efforts.

Concerns about troop levels in Afghanistan and allegations that President Obama may have postponed a meeting with the Dalai Lama dominated the White House press briefing Tuesday.

But reporters asked several questions about the status of the Senate Finance Committee’s health bill, the America’s Healthy Future Act bill, and other Senate health bills.

The Senate Finance Committee agreed Friday to send its bill to the Congressional Budget Office to get an estimate of how much the bill might affect the federal budget deficit.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the committee, suggested last week that the CBO might able to finish scoring the AHFA bill by Tuesday.

“We are missing yet another deadline on health care,” a reporter asked at the briefing, according to a transcript. “The Senate Finance Committee, I guess — it was supposed to be last week, and it was like, no, no, no, they’ll vote it out Tuesday. Today we’re hearing, oh, no, no, Wednesday. Now it doesn’t look like you’re going to get a bill at all this week. Is there any — are you guys frustrated with how long Max Baucus has taken from actually finishing the markup to holding a vote?”

“No, the committee — I think I got a question last week, ‘Are we rushing?’” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. “So it’s interesting — good to know that the leaves are not the only thing changing. I think the committee believes they’re making progress, and I think whether it’s Wednesday…”

“What’s left?” a reporter asked. “I mean, they already voted on all the markups. The bill is the bill, right?”

“Well,” Gibbs said, “I think they’re waiting for — as I understand it, they’re waiting for some CBO estimates for members to – “

“Max Baucus has the votes,” a reporter said. “Why hold off?”

“Better question for Senator Baucus,” Gibbs said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will be working members of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to merge the Finance and HELP versions of the health bill, Gibbs said later.

“I assume that they’ll ask the White House for varying opinions on different issues,” Gibbs said.

But Gibbs said he has no knowledge of who is at the White House working on melding of the health bills.

“I don’t assume it’s any different than the people that have been working on health care, starting last February,” Gibbs said.


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