GOP Senators Attack Democrats’ Handling of Health Care Reform
Senate Republicans on Thursday slammed President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats for pushing a hasty schedule for health care reform and dismissing their ideas in shaping the overhaul.Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, had for months been complimentary of the Senate negotiations on health care reform and had expressed optimism that the final product would be bipartisan. But he and several of his colleagues are now accusing Democratic leaders of failing to include GOP ideas and questioning the speed of the process overall.“You cannot have a bipartisan bill unless Republicans are involved in the drafting,— Enzi told reporters during a Capitol news conference. “I’m concerned with the speed of the schedule.—Enzi — flanked by fellow GOP HELP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Judd Gregg (N.H.) and Pat Roberts (Kan.) — laid out a litany of concerns, not least of which was the Democrats’ push to include a government-run, public plan option, which the Wyoming Republican described as a “litmus test, a non-starter.—On the legislative front, Enzi took aim at HELP Committee Democrats, while also taking a subtle jab at Obama. Additionally, Enzi questioned the ability of the HELP and Finance panels to merge their two health care bills. The Senate process calls for both committees to mark up legislation this month, followed by merger negotiations in early July and a floor vote later that month on a single legislative vehicle.Enzi said the HELP Committee bill — unveiled Tuesday and now being managed by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) in the absence of Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — still doesn’t include any details on the most contentious issues, including the public plan, costs and who pays. Enzi said that makes it practically impossible to offer substantive amendments to the bill in time for Tuesday’s scheduled markup.Enzi, who joined other leading Senators at the White House on Wednesday, also questioned the president’s strategy for dealing with Congress on the issue.Enzi said Obama didn’t give him or his colleagues any specific marching orders on the public plan issue, mentioning only that “he has to appease the House side.— But Enzi suggested that was an odd approach given that the conference committee process is designed to address competing chamber concerns.Enzi’s colleagues who joined him at Thursday’s news conference used the bulk of their time criticizing the public plan. However, one Democratic idea that did receive some nice words was Budget Chairman Kent Conrad’s (D-N.D.) proposal to create health care cooperatives instead of a public plan.“It seems to me if we’re going to do this, we can’t afford to get it wrong,— Roberts said.