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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments On The Money: Democrats move funding bills as budget caps deal remains elusive | Companies line up to weigh in on 0B China tariffs | Trudeau to talk trade with Pelosi, McConnell 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBottom Line Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (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 EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBeware of the 'unknown knowns' of budget reform The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa 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 Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester 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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Senate passes bipartisan IRS modernization bill 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 CornynThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' MORE (R-Tex.) also appeared on “State of the Union,” but dodged a question about the legitimacy of the town hall protests.