Grassley: Healthcare outline by week's end

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he expects the panel to produce a broad outline of healthcare legislation this week and mark it up after the July 4 recess.

Grassley told The Hill on Wednesday that panel Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is nearly finished and wants to move on the legislation after the break. Grassley met with Baucus and other Finance Committee members on Wednesday. Baucus is hoping to win support from Grassley and other Republicans.

Grassley said the tentative plan is to release a broad outline of the proposal this week and to supply more details during the recess.

Grassley said there has been discussion for setting July 6, the Monday after the recess, as the deadline for Democratic and Republican amendments to the legislation.

A spokeswoman for Baucus said her boss intends to move forward with the package as soon as it’s ready.

"He's said we'll be ready when we're ready," said the aide.

But Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), a member of the Finance panel, suggested that lawmakers are making slow progress.

"We're just continuing to talk, not getting anywhere," he said after leaving Wednesday's noontime meeting in Baucus's office.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the acting chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has decided to extend that panel's markup of healthcare legislation until after the recess. Dodd had initially planned to wrap up committee activity this week.

Lawmakers on Finance want to cut the cost of their proposal down to $1 trillion over 10 years. They are stuck at a current price tag of $1.2 trillion.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Finance panel, said negotiators are looking to lower the amount of health insurance subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans. If the subsidies are too high, the Congressional Budget Office projects a mass exodus from employer-provided insurance plans, boosting the cost of reform dramatically.

A Republican involved in negotiations said lawmakers are also seriously considering taxing those employer-provided health benefits that are valued at least 10 percent more than federal-employee insurance plans.