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Democrats will bypass format, lawmakers haul compromise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House and Senate Democrats intend to bypass traditional procedures when they negotiate a final compromise on health care legislation, officials said Monday, a move that will exclude Republican lawmakers and reduce their ability to delay or force politically troubling votes in both houses.

The unofficial timetable calls for final passage of the measure to remake the nation's health care system by the time President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address, probably in early February.

Democratic aides said the final compromise talks would essentially be a three-way negotiation involving top Democrats in the House and Senate and the White House, a structure that gives unusual latitude to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

These officials said there are no plans to appoint a formal House-Senate conference committee, the method Congress most often uses to reconcile differing bills.

In this case, the plan is to skip the formal meetings, reach an agreement, then have the two houses vote as quickly as possible. A 60-vote Senate majority would be required in advance of final passage.