Sunday, August 30, 2009

A leading Republican negotiator on health care struck a further blow to fading chances of a bipartisan compromise Saturday by saying Democratic proposals would restrict medical choices and make the country’s “finances sicker without saving you money.”

The criticism from Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican, echoed that of many opponents of the Democratic plans under consideration in Congress. But Mr. Enzi’s judgment was especially noteworthy because he is one of three Republicans trying to negotiate a bipartisan bill in the Senate’s so-called “Gang of Six.”

In the Republicans’ weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Mr. Enzi said any health care legislation must lower medical costs for Americans without increasing deficits and the national debt.

“The bills introduced by congressional Democrats fail to meet these standards,” he said.

Mr. Enzi, together with Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, has held talks with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat. But the chance of a bipartisan breakthrough has diminished in the face of an effective public mobilization by opponents of Democratic proposals.

“I heard a lot of frustration and anger as I traveled across my home state this last few weeks,” said Mr. Enzi, who has been targeted by critics for seeking to negotiate on legislation. “People in Wyoming and across the country are anxious about what Washington has in mind. This is big. This is personal.”

Hours after the address aired, about 1,000 people rallied in New York City in support of an overhaul. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, told the crowd near Times Square about legislation that she said would lower costs for almost everyone.

The debate over health care will resume in Washington after Labor Day, just two weeks after White House budget officials projected that deficits would total $9 trillion over the next 10 years. Though President Obama has said he wants the total health care bill paid for without adding to the deficit, congressional budget specialists have estimated that House health care proposals would cost the government more.

“The Democrats are trying to rush a bill through the process that will actually make our nation’s finances sicker without saving you money,” Mr. Enzi said.

Democrats also are calling for cuts in Medicare spending, using some of the savings to help uninsured workers. A House bill would result in a net reduction in Medicare of about $200 billion, though Mr. Obama has insisted the reductions would not cut benefits in the health program for the elderly.

But Mr. Enzi said, “This will result in cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the elderly to create new government programs.”

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