By Jeffrey Young - 08/03/09 04:19 PM EDT
Sen. Mike EnziMike EnziJudd Gregg: The silver lining Judd Gregg: A little change Lobbying World 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.
"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 ObamaClinton camp: Trump's fundraising 'bragging is total bunk' Football coach Ditka: 'Happy' to speak at GOP convention but not invited Obama blames ISIS for Istanbul attack 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyPollster: Clinton leads in 5 battlegrounds Overnight Tech: Judiciary leaders question internet transition plan | Clinton to talk tech policy | Snowden's robot | Trump's big digital push Dozens of senators push EPA for higher ethanol mandate 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. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFormer Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary Senate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Juan Williams: GOP sounds the sirens over 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 ReidDems leery of Planned Parenthood cuts spark Senate scuffle Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Senate passes Puerto Rico debt relief bill 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.