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 DurbinDick DurbinRetailers have jumped the shark Dems gain upper hand on budget McConnell: Senate could drop flood money from spending bill MORE (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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyMcConnell blames dysfunction on Dems Four states sue to stop internet transition Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits MORE (R-Iowa), said that the Senate might be better off considering an alternative bipartisan health proposal once thought to be off the table.

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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 EnziMike EnziRestive GOP freshmen eye entitlement reform Overnight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners MORE (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 BaucusMax BaucusChina moves to lift ban on US beef Overnight Healthcare: Zika fight stalls government funding talks | Census finds big drop in uninsured | Mental health bill faces wait Glover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft MORE (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 WydenRon WydenOvernight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security MORE (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 CornynJohn CornynHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill MORE (R-Tex.) also appeared on “State of the Union,” but dodged a question about the legitimacy of the town hall protests.