- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee will not mark up a bill next week, as Majority Leader Harry Reid has requested, putting a new delay in the health care reform bill.

Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus said the committee will continue negotiations, but the delay means Mr. Reid won’t be able to merge the Finance and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bills over the August recess.

“Nevertheless, we are as committed, if not more committed, to finding a bipartisan agreement,” said Mr. Baucus, Montana Democrat.

As Congress’ summer break nears, the bipartisan group of six senators is under pressure to release a draft of their reform plan before leaving town. But the group has repeatedly said that a good bipartisan plan is more important than a rushed bill.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee forged ahead with the markup of its health care reform bill. Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, said he expected the group to conclude the session Friday. But liberal Democrats threatened to vote down a deal he forged with conservative Democrats.

The announcement in the Senate came after a bizarre day for the group of six senators on the committee.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley sent a statement to reporters warning Senate Democrats that they should let the committee continue their work.

Discussions between the group of six “could lead to a bill that makes things better, not worse, but that’ll never happen if Democrat leaders tell Republicans to take a hike by forcing the committee to move an all-Democrat bill,” said Mr. Grassley of Iowa and ranking Republican on the committee.

He said later that the statement was in response to claims that Republicans were stalling health care reform, not pressure from Senate leaders.

After a meeting late in the day Thursday, Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said the group was more aligned than ever. He attributed the frenetic nature of the day to scheduling problems and a series of votes that split up the afternoon.

Other senators in the group are Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Republican Sens. Michael B. Enzi and Olympia J. Snowe.


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