Continued from page 2

While Mr. Baucus in recent months has been laying much of the groundwork in Congress on molding a health care package, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, also continues to play a crucial role. The Massachusetts Democrat returned to Washington on Thursday after spending several weeks in Florida undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

A senior Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Mr. Baucus also intends for his committee to help shape the legislation.

Mr. Kennedy walked into the White House East Room for the summit’s final session with the president, and received a sustained standing ovation from the roughly 150 meeting attendees.

“I’m looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking and this time we will not fail,” Mr. Kennedy said, drawing more loud cheers.

c Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.