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 DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal 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 GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy 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 Enzi Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump cleaning house on border security Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi 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: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech 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 Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (R-Tex.) also appeared on “State of the Union,” but dodged a question about the legitimacy of the town hall protests.