GOP still feeling left out on healthcare

Two top Senate Republicans on Wednesday renewed their harshest criticisms of the Democratic-driven healthcare reform process, even as Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid tears into Trump, Senate GOP: They’re ‘acolytes for Trump’ GOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules MORE sought to reach out to the GOP.

Senate Republican Conference President Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: House passes .3T omnibus | Bill boosts funds for NIH, opioid treatment | Senators spar over ObamaCare fix | 'Right to Try' bill heads to the Senate Overnight Regulation: Omnibus includes deal on tip-pooling rule | Groups sue over rules for organic livestock | AT&T, DOJ make opening arguments in merger trial Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling MORE (Tenn.) and Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (N.H.) also predicted to reporters that the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee won’t finish the bill’s markup in time for a final vote before the August recess. Gregg is a former chairman of the HELP Committee.

Alexander and Gregg said the GOP has submitted several proposals, although they conceded the party has not brought forward a concrete draft as an alternative to the bill being marked up by the HELP Committee. Alexander said the Democratic bill contains too much debt and regulation, and Gregg said it wouldn’t even accomplish President Obama’s stated goal of insuring all Americans.

“The Republican caucus has a whole handful of lollipops, and we keep offering them to the Democrats, saying, ‘Here’s the red one, here’s the blue one, here’s the green one, why don’t you take one and let’s go to work on it,’ " Alexander said. “Most of them are being rejected out of hand.”

Earlier Wednesday, Reid met with GOP Sens. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziA failure to protect students and taxpayers Corker: Why can the Pentagon 'turn entire countries into craters' but not audit itself? Sales tax battle moves to the Supreme Court MORE (Wyo.), who is the ranking HELP Committee member, Olympia Snowe (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMichael Steele: Congress must lead on cannabis reform and stand with the American public Overnight Cybersecurity: House Intel votes to release Russia report | House lawmakers demand Zuckerberg testify | Senators unveil updated election cyber bill Omnibus includes search-and-seize provision MORE (Utah) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley on Trump calling Putin: 'I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal' Lawmakers zero in on Zuckerberg GOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee MORE (Iowa) to ask for GOP help to pass the bill. Emerging from the meeting, the Republicans said Reid downplayed any deadline to pass the bill in an effort to allow bipartisan talks more time to bear fruit.

When asked if more time would lead to more bipartisan success, Gregg said he disagreed.

“It appears that more time is making less of a difference on bipartisanship,” he said. “They’ve got 60 votes. They won the election. It appears they’ve decided maybe to go this alone.”

When asked about “poison pills” in the bill, such as a single-payer or public-option component, Gregg said such components are a “non-starter” to Republicans because they would only lead to rationing and price controls.

“On all other things, we’re open,” Gregg said.

Gregg flatly said the stated Democratic goal of a successful bill before the August recess is impossible and that the GOP won’t allow only two to three weeks of debate.

“No, the Senate’s not going to pass a bill before the August recess,” he said. “The HELP Committee will complete its markup before the August recess … But I don’t think Finance can complete its markup, and we certainly aren’t going to take a bill like this across the floor with anything less than two or three weeks.”