ABC News' David Chalian Reports:
The Senate is scheduled to go on recess next week and not return to the Capitol until after Labor Day. But for the six senators attempting to develop a bipartisan health care reform bill, summer vacation won’t be work free.
“We’ve agreed to a full set of negotiations next week. We have people working all through this weekend. We have agreed to meetings through the August break,” Sen. Kent Conrad, D-Nd., told Jon Karl and me on ABC News’ “Top Line” as he laid out the path forward on health care.
“My anticipation is that we will produce a package in September -- in the first part of September, the first half of September, and if we don’t we’ll have to go in a different direction,” he added.
Four of the five House and Senate committees will have approved their versions of health care reform legislation prior to the scheduled congressional recess in August. The Senate Finance Committee is the one committee which will not vote on a bill prior to the break in an effort to keep both Republicans and Democrats at the table in the hopes of emerging with a bipartisan bill at the end of the process.
This week’s legislative developments, which significantly slowed down health care reform efforts, has not caused Sen. Conrad to alter his prediction that Democrats do not have enough votes to pass a bill.
“I don’t think there’s any question in the Senate that you need Republican votes. You know , If you do the math if you do a vote count it’s really quite clear you need Republicans to join us in order to pass a package,” said Conrad before drilling down into some Senate math.
“There aren’t 60 Democrats who are here and voting,” he said. “As you know we have to colleagues who’ve been very ill and so if they’re not available -- and remember when you get into health care it’s not just one vote. It’s vote after vote after vote after vote. So, you’re down to 58. Then you’ve got a number of Democrats who’ve made quite clear if the package were negotiated only among Democrats that they would not support a public option or a package that had a public option as part of it. That takes you down to 55 votes,” he added.
View the entire interview with Sen. Conrad here:
As we do every Friday, we chatted with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos of “Bottom Line” http://blogs.abcnews.com/george/ fame to get his take on the week’s events. George weighed on the better than expected economic news the Obama administration is eager to tout at the end of a rough week in the polls for the president.
Watch our conversation with George here:
And be sure to tune in to “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday when he is joined by his exclusive guests, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.