Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is taking serious issue with one key Senate Democrat's insistence that Republicans are not invited to the table to iron out differences in the chamber's two competing healthcare bills.
The feud began earlier on Thursday, when Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told reporters that only Democrats would take part in the process to merge his committee's work with the Senate Finance Committee's forthcoming bill. According to Harkin, his party did not have to extend that invitation to its GOP counterparts because Americans elected a solid Democratic majority in 2008.
But Johanns fired back at that argument later in the day, suggesting that any effort to merge the bills without GOP input would alienate the millions of Americans who are represented by Republican lawmakers.
"Now, that's where the legislation really is going to be written, because you've got a different bill out of HELP Committee, you've got a different bill out of Finance Committee, and he says basically that Republicans won't be a part of this," he told reporters during a press conference. "So Nebraskans, who are represented by one Republican, are disenfranchised from that standpoint."
"I find it just amazing that in this time when the effort in the Finance Committee is to try to bridge differences, that that would be said," Johanns added.
It is still unclear whether Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) or Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) share Harkin's desire to keep Republicans out of the merger process. But the HELP chairman's remarks are nonetheless likely to prompt more GOP frustration in the tense days to come.