07/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Baucus Trims Health Care Bill Down To $1 Trillion

Senator Max Baucus, one of the key players in crafting health care reform, broke some big news on Thursday, when he announced that the Senate Finance Committee he chairs could get a bill done for under $1 trillion.

"We are much closer on the scores for a health care reform package than were at this point last week," he said, according to remarks passed along by his staff. "We have options the Congressional Budget Office tells us would cost under $1 trillion and be fully paid for. Based on these developments, I'm even more confident in our ability to move forward. And as I've said before, we will not put out a mark until we are sure we have it right. I'll continue to work with Senator [Chuck] Grassley and members on both sides of aisle to turn these options into a package that can pass the Senate and become law this year."

The details of the Montana Democrat's cuts and proposals have yet to be fully fleshed out, though they likely involve drops in the percentage to which the bill would expand coverage and additional tax increases. An aide on the Finance Committee said that members would be working through the details during the afternoon.

Either way, in the context of congressional politics the pronouncement of a trillion dollar bill is big news. The Finance Committee's initial proposal had come in at a cost of $1.6 trillion, a number that was met with heavy criticism from Republicans in the senate. Even the Obama White House had to backtrack from the prospective bill, saying it was stage one in an ongoing legislative process.

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