McCain: Don’t expect GOP cooperation on legislation for the rest of this year

McCain and another Republican senator decried the effect health reform legislation has had on the Senate, a day after the House passed the upper chamber’s bill.

GOP senators emerged Monday to caution that the health debate had taken a toll on the institution, warning of little work between parties the rest of this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain said during an interview Monday on an Arizona radio affiliate. “They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

The Senate is set to take up a bill under budget reconciliation rules that would make a series of changes to its larger health bill, which the House passed Sunday night and President Barack Obama expects to sign into law on Tuesday.

During the months of debate, Republicans have claimed they have been shut out of the process. Democrats, for their part, had invited some GOP participation in the debate, but said that many of the Republican ideas on the bill were meant to be dilatory, if not outright “obstructionist.”

Cooperation between parties usually isn’t paramount in election years like 2010, with senators jockeying for campaign positioning. But some GOP members said the character of the Senate had changed by virtue of the process used on the health bill.

“In my opinion, the institution of the Congress has been fundamentally harmed,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), pointing to the process Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used to craft the final health bill.

Still, Gregg acknowledged that voters’ concerns about the health bill and the processes used to pass it might have abated by November.

“There will be other events in this nation which capture the attention of the American people,” he said Monday during an appearance on CNBC. “So it’s very possible that people will not be as focused on this by next November.”

Update, 3:17 p.m.: Reid spokesman Jim Manley released the following statement:

For someone who campaigned on ‘Country First’ and claims to take great pride in bipartisanship, it’s absolutely bizarre for Senator McCain to tell the American people he is going to take his ball and go home until the next election.  He must be living in some parallel universe because the fact is, with very few exceptions, we’ve gotten very little cooperation from Senate Republicans in recent years.
At a time when our economy is suffering and we’re fighting two wars, the American people need Senator McCain and his fellow Republicans to start working with us to confront the challenges facing our country—not reiterating their constant opposition to helping working families when they need it most.

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