By J. Taylor Rushing - 07/30/09 01:17 PM EDT
Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWarren’s power on the rise Republicans make M investment in Senate races Nevada's Heck won't say who he's backing for president MORE (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Wikileaks: Durbin pushed unknown Warren for Obama bank regulator The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Ill.), Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles SchumerCharles SchumerReid: 'I have set the Senate' for nuclear option Immigration was barely covered in the debates GOP leaders advise members to proceed with caution on Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) and Conference Secretary Patty MurrayPatty MurrayWhat the 'Bernie Sanders wing of the GOP' can teach Congress Senate Dems demand answers from Wells Fargo over treatment of military A fight for new rights MORE (D-Wash.) also acknowledged that critics will "pour it on" during the coming August recess and they plan to respond in kind.
“That is a deadline that you created,” Reid told a group of about 75 reporters. “It’s not like we don’t have a product. Significant progress has been made … The mere fact that this wasn't done by last Friday or by five o’clock doesn't mean we’re not going to get a quality product."
Sens. Michael Enzi (Wyo.), ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyCruz: 'Precedent’ exists for short-staffed Supreme Court Sanders to Justice Department: Block AT&T purchase of Time Warner Freeing the False Claims Act MORE (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, took stances Thursday against supporting any healthcare bill before the August recess — a move Reid blamed on Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellLiberal groups call for delaying cures bill to next year Conservative groups urge against extending energy tax breaks GOP vulnerables dial back Hillary attacks MORE (R-Ky.).
“The only problem with getting a bipartisan bill is the Republican leadership in the Senate,” Reid said.
Saying the current medical system is "chronically ill," Durbin took aim at the insurance lobby, which he said will “pour it on” during August.
“There are people out there with a lot of money at stake in this debate,” Durbin said. “The health insurance companies are some of the most profitable businesses in America. By fighting change they're protecting their bottom line.”
The Senate's drive toward health reform accelerated in June with a bill passed by the HELP Committee, but it stalled this month in the Finance Committee. Schumer gave an upbeat progress report on the Finance Committee negotiations, saying "real progress" is being made and that Democrats will promote it strongly during the monthlong break.
The Democratic leaders also used endorsements from seven physician lobbies to continue their promotional push Thursday, appearing with Jim King of the American Academy of Family Physicians and Joe Stubbs of the American College of Physicians.
"They understand we cannot maintain the status quo," Reid said of the doctors. "Our healthcare system is not healthy."
"We are too close to stop now," he said, describing the current system as "fragmented, uncoordinated and duplicative."
Stubbs, an internist from Albany, Ga., and president of the college physicians group, said patients are at a disadvantage against insurers under current rules.
"We can and should debate these changes," he said. "But debate must not be the excuse for delay."
Five other medical groups also sent representatives to Thursday's press conference — the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America and the National Physicians Alliance.
The American Medical Association is also supporting the Democratic efforts, but did not send a representative to Thursday's press conference.