Enzi Opposes Baucus Bill in Current Form’
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said Wednesday that he could not vote for Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) health care reform bill “in it’s current form— and blamed Democratic leaders and the White House for forcing the chairman to offer the legislation before the resolution of bipartisan talks.“I’m disappointed that deadlines have brought [negotiations] to a rapid end,— said Enzi, who has been one of three GOP Senators negotiating with Baucus and two other Democrats on a health care measure.Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who participated with Enzi in Baucus’ bipartisan group of health care negotiators, made a similar statement Tuesday night. Baucus formally introduced his $856 billion bill Wednesday in preparation for a Finance panel markup next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he hopes to have a bill on the Senate floor by Sept. 28 with a goal of passing it by Oct. 9.Among other concerns, Enzi said he does not believe that Baucus’ bill would meet President Barack Obama’s goal of making sure people can keep their current insurance if they are satisfied with it. But fellow negotiator Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) defended Baucus’ proposal, which largely reflects the months of negotiations among the gang of six.“There’ll be an opportunity in the markup to vote for changes, but I think it’s a very credible proposal and one that he should get a lot of credit for,— Bingaman said. “As a general matter, I think it accomplishes the major objectives that the president has set out for health care reform. It reforms the insurance markets, it expands coverage, it insures that we don’t add to the deficit. It bends the cost curve in the right direction. All of those are very positive.—Bingaman also held out the hope that Republicans will eventually come on board.“Sen. Baucus is optimistic that that can happen, and I have no reason to question his judgment,— Bingaman said.Enzi did not completely close the door to continued negotiations in advance of next week’s markup, and he said given more time he believed he would have been able to change the bill to his liking.“I’m an ultimate optimist. I was hoping that would be the case,— Enzi told reporters. “I think if we’re not able to come together, if we’re not able to take care of some of these really big things, that the first version of the bill will fail. … We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.—But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who removed himself from the bipartisan talks in July, said it’s unlikely Enzi, Grassley and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will sign onto the measure. “I give [Baucus] credit for trying. … But I don’t imagine any Republican will support it,— he said. Meanwhile, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), a leading liberal on the Senate Finance Committee, reiterated his intention to oppose the bill in its current form. But Rockefeller expressed optimism that there are issues that can be “rescued— during the markup next week.Rockefeller also criticized Baucus for spending months chasing GOP votes that have yet to materialize.”I think it was predictable that the bipartisan thing was not going to work,” Rockefeller said. “And we spent virtually an entire year with most of the Finance Committee being excluded. A lot of us have a long history in health care and have very strong ideas and good ideas. … You don’t run a committee that way.”Rockefeller said he is meeting with the president “one on one— at 3 p.m. Wednesday.John Stanton contributed to this report.