With most of the focus on the House in the health-care battle, the Senate has tried to independently reach a bipartisan deal on health-care reform — by actually engaging Republicans. At least for now, Democrats in the Senate have has as much luck with the GOP as they have with their own Blue Dogs. The three Republicans on the panel have announced that no deal will come before tomorrow’s recess — and it doesn’t look like they’re getting closer regardless:
Two of the three Senate Republicans negotiating a bipartisan deal on health care reform said they consider an agreement out of reach before the Senate goes on its August recess.
That likely dashes the hopes of Democratic leaders and President Barack Obama for a deal among the so-called Gang of Six negotiators that could deliver critical momentum for the stalled health care overhaul.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyoming, dropped the bombshell news to CNN and two other reporters in Capitol hallways Wednesday night. They have spent weeks behind closed doors, trying to hammer out an agreement with their Democratic counterparts on the Senate Finance Committee but said too many issues remain unresolved, making it virtually impossible for them to sign on to a deal before the break.
Harry Reid postponed consideration of health-care reform until after the break, but he had hoped to get some broad framework of agreement before everyone left Washington. In this case, Reid at least tried to play it smarter than Nancy Pelosi, who has put herself in the worst-case scenario of having a firm bill with only Democrats supporting it (and not even all of those), hanging in public like a pinata for the GOP to hit for the next several weeks. Reid wanted to get Republicans on board before the recess to alleviate the pressure on his caucus from constituents during the recess.
Even if Reid failed, the strategy made a lot more sense than what Democrats are doing in the House:
A leading Blue Dog said today that Democrats aren’t working with any Republicans to pass healthcare reform.
Rep. Barron Hill (D-Ind.) admitted that healthcare efforts so far have focused entirely on rounding up the Democratic caucus.
“We’ve not had any discussions or negotiations with Republicans,” Hill said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “We invite Republicans to be a part of the solution to our healthcare problems that we have, but we’ve not had any negotiations with them.”
The Hill has the video:
Enzi got angry yesterday when rumors of a deal began swirling around Capitol Hill:
Enzi, a soft-spoken conservative, was furious about headlines Wednesday morning that suggested he was close to reaching a deal with the Democrats.
“I felt my reputation was in danger,” he said.
He issued a statement batting down the stories and insisted any deal he might ultimately sign onto would have to be preserved by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Reid when it is merged with other more liberal legislation in the Senate and House.
“I’m not interested in lending credibility to disaster,” Enzi said.
That will be the Republican message during the break. The Hill also reports that the GOP may introduce their own health-care reform bill in the House when the session resumes in September, which should make for some interesting fireworks with Pelosi and John Boehner. In the meantime, the GOP will spend the recess emphasizing the radical nature of Democratic plans on health care reform, and the Democrats will not have a fig leaf of bipartisan agreement to protect them.