Senate Dems push healthcare to September

Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday made it official that health reform will have to wait until the fall to be considered by Congress’s upper chamber.

Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Gorsuch: I'm 'sorry' for ruling against autistic student MORE (Ill.), Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDem to Trump: 'You truly are an evil man' Dem senator: GOP controls all of gov't, so success or failure is on them Trump tweets: We’ll put together a great plan after Obamacare explodes MORE (N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty MurrayPatty MurrayInspector general reviewing HHS decision to halt ObamaCare ads Dems mock House GOP over lack of women in healthcare meeting The Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE (Wash.) told reporters they decided Wednesday night to put off a Senate vote until after the chamber reconvenes after Labor Day.

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The Senate leaders said they hoped to send legislation to President Obama by the end of the year. They originally had hoped to send a final bill to the president in mid-October.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she was open to putting a vote off in that chamber until after the August recess.

That would mean neither chamber would meet its original goal of completing work on a bill before the August recess. The House is scheduled to adjourn a week from Friday; the Senate is scheduled to remain in Washington for one additional week.

“Working with Republicans, one of the things that they ask is for more time,” Reid said Thursday. “The decision was made to give them more time … I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This is a complex, difficult issue.”

Reid said he had spoken directly with Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusGOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination MORE (D-Mont.) on the new deadlines.

He and other Senate leaders now hope to get a bill out of the Senate Finance Committee, merge it with legislation approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and get that combined bill to the Senate floor by the recess date.

Schumer dismissed the idea that the bill would lose momentum over the August recess, citing public demand for some type of change.

“The whole goal has always been to have the president sign it by the end of the year,” he said. “So the plan is going to be out there for a period of time, and it’s going to have to stand the test of the public as well. I’m not worried. It should be out there, and maybe the plan is modified.”

Schumer also dismissed the idea that Obama has mismanaged the effort to pass reform, saying that the plan remains “on track.”

“No one wants delay, but the president has done this just right,” Schumer said.  “We’re moving along in just the right way.”

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The Democratic leaders also tried a personal touch Thursday to sell healthcare, sending two area women to tell their stories of health hardship to reporters.

Kathy Devincentis of Washington, a retired hospice nurse from Delaware and a breast-cancer survivor, told reporters she had to struggle to get insurance for chemotherapy treatments and faced costs of $1,000 per month and a $5,000 deductible.

“We really need to change this,” she said of the current health system.

Regina Holliday of Maryland, an art teacher whose 10-year-old son Freddy has autism, told of her husband’s death last month from kidney cancer that went undiagnosed because they could not afford insurance.

“Would access to affordable health insurance have made a difference in our case? I think so,” Holliday said. “If my husband could have seen a primary care doctor throughout the past 10 years, there would have been a very good chance his cancer could have been caught before it reached stage four.”

“Those who oppose reform like to talk about it in the abstract — they use code words, scare tactics and sound bites,” Reid said of the women’s stories. “Reforming healthcare is about real people.”