Sen. Enzi: No deadline for healthcare talks

One of the three Republican senators working on a bipartisan agreement on healthcare reform legislation flatly denied Monday the Democratic claims that negotiators had set a mid-September deadline to complete their work.

Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziWe can't allow Congress to take earned benefits programs away from seniors Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats Senate panel might not take up budget until October MORE (R-Wyo.), one of six senators on the Finance Committee working on the bill and also the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, pushed back hard at assertions by Senate Democrats that the bipartisan group has vowed to complete its work by Sept. 15.

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“I have not and will not agree to an artificial deadline because I am committed to getting healthcare reform right, not finishing a bill by some arbitrary date," Enzi said in a statement issued just minutes into a meeting on the bill in the offices of Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBernie Sanders flexes power on single-payer ObamaCare architect supports single-payer system Trump has yet to travel west as president MORE (D-Mont.).

"Improving access to quality, affordable healthcare for American families is too important to do hastily. Additionally, since many of the policies under discussion will not take effect for a number of years, we should focus on the goal of meaningful reform and not rush to meet timelines,” Enzi said.

Enzi's statement portends additional delays for a bill that President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight Iran's president warns US will pay 'high cost' if Trump ditches nuclear deal MORE originally wanted passed by the Senate this Friday. Though the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee marked up its portion of the bill weeks ago, the Finance Committee deliberations threaten to drag into the autumn.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) told reporters Monday that "we're certainly going to try" to come to agreement by Sept. 15, but, minutes later, rejected the notion of a deadline. "I think we should disregard timetables," Snowe said.

The three Republicans in the group — Enzi, Snowe and Finance Committee ranking member Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: 'Good chance' Senate panel will consider bills to protect Mueller Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE (Iowa) — have been intensely opposed to placing any time limitations on the negotiating process. Senate Republican leaders have also pressured the senators not to agree to anything too quickly, nor without consulting their GOP colleagues.

Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump MORE (D-N.Y.), a Finance Committee member who is not part of Baucus's "gang of six," said earlier Monday that Baucus and Grassley agreed last week they needed more time and that Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight MORE (D-Nev.) gave his blessing to the Sept. 15 deadline.

“We want these negotiations to work, so when both Baucus and Grassley said they needed more time, Leader Reid said he understood,” Schumer said on a a conference call with reporters.

Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) are also participants in the bipartisan sessions, which will continue throughout the week.