- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

The leader of the Democrat-controlled Senate said Thursday the chamber will not vote on health-care reform before the August recess, dashing efforts to meet President Obama’s ambitious deadline.

“We’ll come back in the fall,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “I think that it’s better to have a product … based on quality and thoughtfulness rather than trying to jam something through.”

Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, said lawmakers reached the decision Wednesday night but did not say whether it was before or after Mr. Obama’s prime-time TV speech in which the president said he would not sign a bill that didn’t work.

Mr. Obama wants to sign legislation this year that would provide coverage for 97 percent of Americans and reduce escalating health-care costs.

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Democrats vowed earlier in the summer to reach a full floor vote before summer. But Republican and fiscally conservative Democrats have opposed the plan largely because of the cost and short deadline, considering its complexity. As a result, the announcement about the delay was no surprise.

The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted in favor of legislation earlier this month.

Mr. Reid said the Senate Finance Committee will decide before the recess starts August 8 on its part of the bill, which will merge with the other Senate bill.

Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, is trying to reach the first bipartisan deal on the legislation.

“Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time,” Mr. Reid said. “A decision was made to give them more time for the Finance Committee.”

The House’s $1.5 trillion, 10-year plan is still being negotiated in the chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee.

President Obama reacted to Mr. Reid’s comment during a town hall meeting Thursday in a suburb Cleveland.

“That’s okay,” he said. “I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working. I want the bill to get out of the committee, then I want that bill to get on to the floor and then I want that bill to be reconciled … and then I want to sign that bill. I want it done this year. I want it done by the fall.”

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this article.

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