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Rahm Emanuel Meets With House Dems, Urging Action on Health Care Reform

In this Nov. 18, 2008 file photo, Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama, addresses a gathering in Washington

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel met for about a half-hour Tuesday night with House Democrats as lawmakers try to craft legislation to reform the country's health care system.

"The goal is to get a bill done and signed into law," said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Emanuel is noticeably absent from President Obama's trip to Russia this week. Sources indicate he intends to work with skeptical lawmakers this week to finalize a plan to achieve one of the administration's most weighty domestic policy goals.

"Rahm is so connected here and to the administration that he holds a lot of swing," said Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., who attended the meeting with Emanuel.

Emanuel previously served as a Democratic congressman from Illinois before joining the Obama administration.

Lawmakers asked Emanuel questions about the cost of reforming health care and expressed concern about keeping a so-called "public option" in the legislation, which refers to allowing Americans to purchase health care insurance from the federal government.

After Emanuel finished meeting with rank-and-file Democrats, he adjourned to a closed-door session with Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

"It was a robust discussion" Elshami said.

Congressional Democrats hope to approve a health care bill before recessing for the summer in August.

FOX News also has learned that the House Ways and Means Committee is tinkering with a plan to tax high-income Americans to help control the cost of a health care program. Sources say the government could slap as much as a four percent tax on the income of taxpayers who earn more than $250,000 annually to defray costs.

The price tag of the health care bill is unclear, but some estimates hover around $1 trillion.

House Democrats scrambled Tuesday to quash a media report that the cost of the package could spike to $1.5 trillion. In a written statement, the three committees shepherding the health bill through the House said "this report is premature and entirely fabricated. In fact, none of the reporters working on this piece contacted our press offices to fact check their story."