Bipartisan negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee vowed Tuesday to continue pressing for a deal on health care reform, insisting that the escalating war of words between President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans will not derail their efforts.
Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) both said that no matter how heated the partisan exchanges, they are making progress and would not be rushed into putting out a bill. The Finance negotiators met throughout the day Tuesday.
I dont think that has much of an effect, because Republicans here very much want to reach an agreement, Baucus said Tuesday when asked if Obamas decision to target the GOP would negatively affect the Finance Committee talks. I wont say theyve crossed the Rubicon, but they certainly want an agreement.
Three Republican Finance Members have been huddling with three of the committees Democrats, led by Baucus, to reach a bipartisan deal on health care. The negotiators are hoping to arrive at a consensus before the August recess, which begins for the Senate on Aug. 7.
Grassley, who is leading the GOP in the talks, appeared to support Baucus assessment, saying that he is as committed to the process as ever. But Grassley was critical of Obamas latest round of attacks against the GOP on health care reform.
And Grassley charged that Obama isnt limiting his attacks to just Republicans.
I talked to a Democratic Congressman not from Iowa over the weekend, and the president said [to this Democrat], Youre going to destroy my presidency. Now, this isnt about President Obama, Grassley said, adding: Is this impeding our work? No, its not. Whats slowing the progress is how complicated these issues are.
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), among the six Finance negotiators, agreed that the escalated political warfare would not persuade them to leave the negotiating table. Snowe, who has pushed back against Obamas request that the Senate pass a health package by the recess, appeared particularly unfazed by the recent uptick in partisanship.
Were going to continue to do our work irrespective of the conversations and the statements and speeches that are made outside this arena, Snowe said. I think its to be expected, frankly, on both sides. But the key for us is to stay focused here on what we need to do.
Conrad deemed Tuesday an extraordinarily good day and suggested that negotiators were in the final stages of reaching an agreement. Still, Conrad cautioned that significant decisions remained.
Were operating under the rule, nothing is decided until everything is decided. So, even if you reach tentative conclusions on some things, that doesnt mean they cant be reopened, Conrad told reporters.
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