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Congress: Kerry stepping up

"Senator John F. Kerry is reluctant to say he will take up Edward M. Kennedy's mantle on health care -- it sounds 'presumptuous' to him -- but he appears primed to take on a larger, more public role in the debate," The Boston Globe reports. "Kerry is in a potentially influential position as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has been working for months to create a bipartisan health care bill and will be a key battleground when Congress reconvenes next week. While health care has never been his signature issue, Kerry has been a quiet player in the talks, suggesting ideas for compromise on financing and the public insurance option - ideas the 'Gang of Six' Finance panel negotiators immediately took up as serious proposals. Now, he seems poised to do more."

The always-pugnacious Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) recently told constituents "that reform opponents should 'slit our wrists' and become 'blood brothers' in the effort to stop Democratic legislation." She also said that she'd run for president if God told her to. Fellow Minnesotan Rep. Jim Oberstar (D) took a shot at her for those comments at a town hall: "Tell her there are voices other than God that are informing her now."

"President Barack Obama will likely shape the healthcare debate going forward, a top House Democrat said Thursday," The Hill writes. "Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said that despite a desire by many in the party to include a government-run insurance option in the bill, Democrats will listen carefully to Obama's direction." 
"Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) appears unlikely to walk away from bipartisan health care reform talks in the Senate Finance Committee to cut a side deal with the White House, but her spokeswoman said Thursday that she continues to keep an "open line of communication" with President Barack Obama," Roll Call writes. " 'The Senator's foremost goal is to achieve a bipartisan consensus among the six members of the group on a path forward for meaningful health care reform,' Snowe spokeswoman Julia Wanzco said."