Bipartisan Senate Group Asks Leaders to Put Brakes on Health Bill

Posted July 17, 2009 at 11:36am

A bipartisan group of Senators led by Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is pushing back against the rush to complete a health care bill by mid-August.

Nelson, joined by Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), on Friday released to Senate leaders a suggestion that the chamber adopt a more reasonable time frame in order to ensure the measure actually saves money in the long run.

Nelson said on Thursday that simply getting the Senate Finance Committee to report a bill is perhaps achievable before lawmakers take off for the August recess. The Finance panel had been rushing to put out a bipartisan bill this week, but Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Thursday that he needed a few more days of negotiation.

“We support the efforts of Finance Committee members to produce a bipartisan bill, despite calls from both sides of the aisle to rush forward or delay indefinitely,— the bipartisan group wrote. “While we are committed to providing relief for American families as quickly as possible, we believe taking additional time to achieve a bipartisan result is critical for legislation that affects 17 percent of our economy and every individual in the U.S.—

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama have been pushing to have a bill passed by the Senate before the recess, and Democratic leaders have even been considering keeping the chamber in session the week of Aug. 10 in order to do so.

Nelson pointed out that the letter, addressed to Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), also “cautions against delays, too,— Nelson said. The letter attempts to recognize that many Republicans don’t want any bill to come to the floor, he said.

The letter expresses concern about Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf’s statement on Thursday that neither a measure approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee this week, nor a bill under consideration in the House, would actually end up saving the government money on health care costs.

“We are faced with the dual challenges of pressing ahead to pass legislation by the end of the year and to produce the reform the American people need,— the letter reads.