Durbin: Health bill 'doesn't have to be perfect'

Two highly influential senators suggested on Sunday that key provisions in their chamber’s health insurance reform legislation may be in jeopardy after they return from recess.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that he would be willing to forgo a public health insurance option in order put a final bill to a full Senate vote soon. The Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said that the Senate might be better off considering an alternative bipartisan health proposal once thought to be off the table.

ADVERTISEMENT
The senators’ remarks underscore the uncertainty of the details of an ultimate version of healthcare reform.

"I support a public option but yes, I am open," to its absence Durbin said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Durbin stressed that keeping the three Republican senators, Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), still negotiating with Finance Committee Democrats is key to passing a successful bill.

"We want to keep them in negotiations. We are determined to get a bill to the floor, it doesn't have to be a perfect bill," he said. "I don't want this process filibustered to failure."

Durbin said that getting a bipartisan bill to the floor after recess was his top priority and that the conference committee could rectify differences between the House and Senate versions, including a public option.

Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) set a Sept. 15 deadline to bring a bipartisan healthcare reform bill to a vote in his influential committee. A group of three Republicans and three Democrats have been engaged in lengthy negotiations on the bill.

Some Senate Democrats have said they would force a party-line vote if the “gang of six” do not meet Baucus’ deadline.

Durbin, however, stressed the need for patience. “We need to take the time to get this right.”

Grassley took to Twitter on Sunday to suggest an entirely different way forward on healthcare reform.

The Iowa Republican said his chamber should give the bipartisan Wyden-Bennett bill a "LookSe." That health reform proposal was considered dead until he brought it up on his Twitter account.

 “Republicans know need for healthCareReform That's why there are at least 4 Republican bills There is one bipartisan_Wyden-Bennett GiveLookSe,” Grassley tweeted Sunday morning.

The bipartisan proposal sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) calls for universal healthcare coverage with private insurance companies acting as the primary insurance providers.

Grassley's comments may raise some eyebrows since he has been the lead Republican healthcare negotiator on the Senate Finance Committee.

Last week, Durbin warned other Democratic lawmakers to avoid the “sucker punch” at town hall meetings, implying the protests that have been popping up at the congressional forums were disingenuous.

On Sunday, he backed off those comments somewhat, saying that real people with real concerns attended town halls. But he also asserted that some protests are “clearly being orchestrated.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn (R-Tex.) also appeared on “State of the Union,” but dodged a question about the legitimacy of the town hall protests.

More in Blog Briefing Room

Durbin: GOP inviting Israeli PM a 'mistake'

Read more »