From NBC's Ken Strickland
The bipartisan group of Senate Finance Committee members drafting a health-care proposal met today via conference call. Committee Chairman Max Baucus called it "productive," but otherwise didn't make any news. The group will meet -- in person -- on Tuesday when the Senate reconvenes in Washington.
Other members of the so-called "gang of six" include Democrats Kent Conrad and Jeff Bingaman, and Republicans Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe.
"Today's call was a productive one," Baucus said in a statement. "We addressed a number of issues at hand and the next steps moving forward. Health reform is certainly a significant challenge and each time we talk, we are reminded just how many areas of agreement exist. We agree we need to take control of health care costs and make health insurance affordable for families and small businesses. We agree all Americans should be able to choose -- and be able to afford -- a quality health care plan. And, we agree health care reform should be fiscally responsible and not add to the deficit."
Added Snowe: "Today's discussion was both productive and constructive, as we continue to move forward as a group toward a shared goal of producing an historic, bipartisan agreement on health reform legislation. When Congress returns to session next week, we will be working with the same intensity we've brought to bear this year to achieve a consensus bill -- as I believe we must reduce the costs of health care and make coverage more affordable for all Americans."