Reid Asks McConnell for Bipartisanship on Health Care

Posted April 27, 2009 at 12:03pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) penned a letter to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday urging bipartisanship as the Senate looks to overhaul the nation’s health care system this year. Reid told McConnell that it is “my greatest hope that Republicans will decide to work with Democrats to respond to this emergency and help us fashion comprehensive, bipartisan health reform legislation.— “I know that we will disagree at times, but I welcome an open and honest debate about how to lower health care costs, expand access and improve the quality of care,— the Majority Leader added. Reid’s letter comes as Congress prepares to pass the final version of a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, which includes fast-track instructions for health care legislation. Those instructions, known as reconciliation, would allow the Senate to pass health care reform with just 51 votes and bypass a GOP filibuster.In response to Reid’s letter, McConnell said the Majority Leader isn’t practicing what he preaches.“As Sen. McConnell told the president and Sen. Reid during a meeting at the White House last week, he and his colleagues want to be a part of the solution to reforming our country’s health care system,— McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said. “But fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as health care reform without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people. By including this fast-track proposal in their budget, Democrats would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis.—As Republicans balk at reconciliation, Democrats have been engaged in a public relations offensive to calm fears and woo GOP support. “There’s absolutely no appetite for reconciliation,— Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said on a conference call with reporters earlier Monday. “If we get down to that kind of partisan [and] acrimonious debate, the country will lose.— Reid’s letter to McConnell strikes a similar tone. “We must discuss how to help struggling Americans, not drown in distractions and distortions — or be sidetracked by squabbles about arcane Senate procedure, as some in your party seem intent to do,— Reid warned. The Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees have begun hearings and roundtable discussions as they work toward crafting a comprehensive health care measure. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is hoping to hold a committee markup in June and move the bill to the Senate floor by July. With that deadline in mind, Reid looked to his GOP colleagues to come aboard. “The budget we will vote on this week gives us nearly six months to work together toward a comprehensive reform bill,— Reid said. “Let’s use that time to work together in our common interest rather than against each other and against the interests of the American people.—