GOP Mum on Senate Health Care Reform Talks

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

The Republican talking points in the Senate are, with some variation, these:

  1. A government takeover of healthcare is bad.

  2. Americans don't want to lose the coverage they have and Democrats' plans want to take it away.

  3. Democrats need to slow down. It’s more important to do this right than fast.

The bipartisan talks at the Senate Finance Committee are moving to address these concerns. Negotiators there appear to be leaning away from proposals for a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers. They’ve been negotiating for weeks, blowing an initial deadline set by the White House to have a health reform bill passed through the Senate by Aug. 7.

But don't try to ask Republican Senators about the bipartisan Finance Committee talks seeking middle ground.

At a briefing for reporters, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was asked about the Finance Committee talks. He said he is in the loop. Republican leaders get a weekly briefing on Wednesdays and McConnell said he gets a daily briefing from Sens. Mike Enzi and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa

When asked if the Senate Finance Committee talks were addressing his concerns on health reform or whether the talks were moving in the right direction, McConnell was less than forthcoming.

He repeated that the process needs to be slowed down and started to say “we don’t know what’s in the Finance bill yet.”

A reporter pointed out that McConnell said he was getting daily briefings, so he must have some idea what would be in the bill, but his answer offered no opinion.

“This is the biggest issue, arguably, the biggest domestic issue, we'll ever have. Sixteen percent of our economy, everybody cares about health care, it affects each of us in a very personal way… And what we hear from the American people, they're saying, whoa, slow down, make sure of what you're doing before you go forward because many of Americans are concerned they're going to lose their own health care,” he said.

If the Finance talks are moving in a direction that McConnell might like (we presume) – abandoning the public health insurance option – that’s a direction that many Democrats will disapprove of.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted that in order to get a health reform bill passed, Democrats will have to make some sacrifices.

“I have a responsibility to get a bill on the Senate floor that will get 60 votes, so we can proceed to it. That's my number one responsibility and there are times when I have to set aside my personal preferences for the good of the Senate and I think the country,” said Reid.

It is unclear if Reid will be able to bring all Democrats along with him to make that sacrifice.

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