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 ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE sought to reach out to the GOP.

Senate Republican Conference President Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal 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.

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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 EnziMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Live coverage: Senate Republicans pass tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (Wyo.), who is the ranking HELP Committee member, Olympia Snowe (Maine), Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (Utah) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy 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.”