Aug 6 (Reuters) - Six members of the Senate Finance Committee - three of the Democratic majority and three Republicans - have been meeting for many weeks to work out details of a massive overhaul of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.
The group, known as the Gang of Six, was selected by panel chairman Max Baucus and senior Republican Charles Grassley to work toward a bipartisan agreement on healthcare legislation. Three House of Representatives’ committees and the Senate Health Committee have approved separate healthcare legislation without Republican support.
The following are brief profiles of the six senators:
Baucus, 67, is a six-term Democrat from Montana. A centrist, Baucus has been criticized by some of the more liberal members of his party for being too willing to give up on their goal of a government-run public health insurance option. He has worked closely in the past with Grassley, the panel’s senior Republican, on Medicare, tax and trade issues and has said he wants a bill some Republicans can support.
Kent Conrad, 61, of North Dakota, is in his fifth term and is also chairman of the Budget Committee. A centrist Democrat, he is concerned the healthcare bill, with an estimated cost of nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, could worsen the record U.S. budget deficit. He has also said the plan they are drafting could not pass the Senate without Republican votes, even though his party controls the chamber by a 60-40 margin.
Jeff Bingaman, 65, a Democrat from New Mexico, is in his fifth term, chairs the Energy Committee and is on the Health Committee. He has said he supports a public insurance option overseen by Washington, wants to control healthcare spending, and expand coverage.
Grassley, 75, of Iowa, is in his fifth term, and chaired the Finance Committee when Republicans controlled the Senate. He has taken his party’s lead on work toward a bipartisan plan, which is expected to contain an option for nonprofit insurance co-operatives to compete with private insurers. He is seen as a a pragmatic conservative and is considered a maverick on some issues.
Olympia Snowe, 62, a centrist Republican from Maine, is in her third term and is considered a crucial swing vote on the panel. She has opposed taxing employer-provided health benefits. As the senior Republican on the Small Business Committee, Snowe has been the leading voice for small business on healthcare issues.
Michael Enzi, 65, is in his third term from Wyoming. He is the senior Republican on a second panel, the Health committee, and did not vote for the healthcare bill due to its government-run insurance option. He has backed work toward a bipartisan plan. (Writing by Jackie Frank; Editing by Paul Simao)