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Menendez Accuses NRSC of Playing Politics With Reform

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) added a few fireworks Tuesday to an otherwise tame Finance Committee health care reform markup, accusing Republicans of playing politics with the overhaul.With National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) directly opposite him on the dais, Menendez said he was concerned about press reports detailing the NRSC’s plans to target Democrats on the Finance Committee over their votes on the measure.“I have a real concern, when I read in today’s press that the [NRSC] already has its eyes on Democrats, including those in 2012, and plans to bomb our Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee,— Menendez said, as Cornyn cracked a smile but otherwise didn’t react. “They’re putting the political interest of their party leadership ahead of the interest of the taxpayers.—The Finance panel adjourned for a few hours to allow Members to participate in party luncheons. It resumes at 2:45 p.m.Cornyn in his opening statement made no mention of Menendez’s charges and focused his remarks on the several flaws he sees in the panel’s reform package. But NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh called Menendez’s comments “ironic.—“When you consider that the DSCC has issued literally dozens of press releases and fundraising appeals attacking Republicans on health care reform in recent weeks, these remarks are ironic, to say the least,— Walsh said.Tuesday’s markup has been largely uneventful so far, with Members offering their opening statements on the package. Baucus unveiled the modifications he made to his $856 billion health care proposal, which were designed to quiet the concerns of committee Democrats. Democratic Finance members criticized the original bill as unaffordable for middle- and lower-income Americans. Baucus’ changes took into account amendments filed by several Democrats, as well as a few Republicans.“My modification to the Chairman’s Mark focuses on making health care more affordable for middle class families, while ensuring the legislation reduces the deficit and effectively slows the growth of skyrocketing health care costs,— Baucus said in a prepared statement. “This modification incorporates important ideas from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.—

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