Dutch coalition parties in tense talks after Labor senators vote down health care reform



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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Senior figures from the Netherlands' two-party ruling coalition held tense talks Wednesday, a day after three Labor Party senators unexpectedly voted down health care legislation and dented confidence in the 2-year-old Cabinet's ability to cooperate on budget-cutting reforms.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the free-market Liberal Party and Diederik Samsom of the center-left Labor Party failed to patch together a compromise in talks that dragged into the early hours of the morning. Labor leaders were meeting Wednesday to seek a way out of the crisis.

The legislation defeated Tuesday was part of a package of health care reforms aimed at shaving 1 billion euros ($1.25 billion) off government spending. Opponents said it put too much power in the hands of health insurance companies by reining in patients' ability to choose their own doctors.

Rutte, whose first coalition government collapsed after just 18 months due to disagreements on unpopular austerity measures, was clearly unhappy at the latest dissent in government ranks.

"It is very important that deals we make in politics are honored," he told reporters as he emerged from late-night talks. "On that issue something clearly went badly wrong."

Rutte's coalition does not have a Senate majority and relies on cooperation from opposition parties to pass laws. While a group of opposition senators voted for the reform, it was defeated with the help of the three rebel Labor senators.

Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a member of the Labor Party, said he was confident the government would be able to broker a solution to the impasse, but it was not immediately clear what form such a solution could take.

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