MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA
Bozeman city officials say they are preparing for President Barack Obama to visit next week an event that would bring the president to the home state of the senator leading bipartisan health care talks. Montana has become important in the health care overhaul debate as U.S. Sen. Max Baucus uses his powerful Finance Committee chairmanship to steer the Senate's negotiations talks that are dragging on longer than many Democratic leaders would like. Obama has signaled impatience and warned that he will eventually push forward with health care reform even if Baucus' small group of Democrats and Republicans fail to cut a deal. Officials have not yet revealed what the president's Montana visit will entail, but Obama has been pushing his policy priorities including health care at events around the country, including a stop in Indiana on Wednesday and plans for another town-hall style event next week in New Hampshire. The White House would not confirm the planned stop in Montana. Bozeman Police Chief Mark Tymrak said he had been authorized to verify that Obama would stop in the city late next week, but said all other questions would have to go through the Secret Service. Mayor Kaaren Jacobson said officials were Expecting Obama to visit next Friday and that she hopes to know the specifics on Monday. Obama made a number of stops last year in Montana as a candidate, showering the state with unprecedented presidential campaign attention. He still lost the Republican-leaning state to Republican John McCain, although he came much closer to carrying the state than other recent Democratic presidential candidates. Obama said Wednesday that he's determined to get an overhaul of the health care system before the end of the year. Baucus' office said it would not yet comment on the visit. On Tuesday, emerging from a meeting with Obama over the status of health care talks, Baucus and others promised the Democrats would remain unified.