It's a process that many jockeyed to be a part of, but only a few were chosen.
“I think Sen. Reid wants a smaller group rather than a larger group,” Baucus said. “But every senator is going to be consulted thoroughly as we put this bill together.”
In order to craft a bipartisan agreement on the Finance bill, Baucus recruited a team of six senators who met almost on a daily basis.
But the process now is likely to look and feel much different, with Reid—the Senate's top Democrat—taking the lead.
Indeed, the one Republican who stuck with Baucus through the entire process and who voted for the bill yesterday when no other GOP members would, may not be included in the process at all.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said that Democratic leaders had not approached her about having a seat at the table.
“Hopefully there will be some flexibility in all of this, and not (a) drawing (of) lines,” she said.
Major differences remain between the Finance package and the bill passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel in July. For starters, the latter committee included a strong, government-backed public health plan. The Finance committee did not.
Baucus acknowledged that it's a tough task. “The country wants a balanced bill, and I'm going to be working hard to achieve that,” he told reporters after the vote.
Despite those differences, Dodd, who steered the HELP bill through the committee process, said he expects the meetings to go smoothly.
“This is going to be a merger, not an acquisition,” he said.
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