Reid Says GOP Leaders Are Trying to Undermine Health Care Reform

Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:55pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that GOP leaders in his chamber are actively undermining efforts to write a health care reform bill.

Speaking to reporters, Reid said the GOP Senators who have been negotiating for almost two months with Senate Finance Committee Democrats to craft a bipartisan bill are coming under increasing pressure from their own leadership to either reject any deal or delay its unveiling.

“No one is harming the process of moving forward on a bill other than the Republican leadership,— Reid said.

He added that Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) “have been under great pressure— from their leaders. Enzi and Grassley are part of a group of six Finance Senators working on a bipartisan bill, along with Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Enzi and Grassley appear to have been spooked by news reports that a bipartisan agreement was nearly complete. Enzi told reporters Wednesday that he spent much of his morning fielding calls from concerned GOP colleagues. News reports of an imminent deal appear to have been fueled by Baucus’ announcement that the deal he was putting together received a budget score of $900 billion and would enact significant cost savings in the health care marketplace.

In fact, the draft measure Baucus submitted to the Congressional Budget Office contained many elements to which Republicans have not yet agreed, said one Senate Democratic source.

In full damage-control mode, Enzi and Grassley crossed the Capitol on Thursday to assure House Republicans that no deal was imminent. Enzi said afterward that the Finance bill was a “train wreck— and was “not ready for prime time.—

“I don’t know any way how it could be ready today or next week,— Enzi said.

But Reid said he is “still cautiously optimistic that we’ll get something out of Finance before [the end] of this work period.— The Senate is scheduled to adjourn next Friday.

With Enzi also demanding assurances that Republicans be consulted on changes to the bill after it passes through Finance, Reid bristled at the notion that he would not include GOP Senators in discussions when he merges any Finance compromise with a Democratic bill that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved two weeks ago.

“I know how to count to 60,— Reid said, referencing the number of votes needed to kill a filibuster. “So anyone that would intimate that this is going to be all the HELP Committee bill or all the Finance Committee bill doesn’t know how to count to 60.—

He added later, “We can’t do it without Republican support.—