Dodd, Kennedy to introduce healthcare reform bill

Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, will introduce broad healthcare reform legislation Tuesday afternoon.

Dodd will introduce the Affordable Health Choices Act to comply with committee rules, which requires that legislation be made available for review before committee markup. The legislation leaves unscripted the details in some controversial areas, such as the public plan option and employer mandates. Dodd hopes to hammer out the specifics of these policies after consulting with Republicans in the coming days.

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"I want Republicans to know that I want their ideas," he said during a Tuesday morning press conference. "I want to put in a bill that is an invitation."

The committee will mark up legislation starting next week. It has allocated two weeks to vote on amendments.

Dodd is spearheading talks on healthcare reform in the absence of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the HELP Committee.

Dodd said he had dinner with Kennedy on Sunday in Hyannis Port, Mass.

"No one wants to be back here more than he," Dodd said of Kennedy. "He was absolutely adamant that we go forward."

Dodd emphasized to reporters that Kennedy is still chairman of the committee. He likened his own role to that of a manager.