President Obama has pushed Democratic senators to complete a health care bill by the August recess, but one key negotiator says he doesn't see how that can happen given the packed Senate schedule.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, a Finance Cmte member who has been at the negotiating table with Dems & Republicans for weeks, told reporters, "With Sotomayor, I don't know how you get it done. I mean, where there's a will there's a way, I guess, but it's hard to see how you can do both."
Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, said he's "feeling good" about where the committee is, as it tries to find a way to pay for a $1 trillion health care bill. "The goal is to get an agreement...Yes, I think there's a very good chance we'll get it done," Baucus said, adding, with some measure of doubt, "I think it's a lift, but it's one we can accomplish...if the pieces come together. And there's no reason why they can't. Not that I'm guaranteeing that's going to happen. But it can be done."
What exactly those so-called "pay for's" will be has, as yet, alluded consensus even among the negotiators. Much of what the members are considering is powerfully unpopular, like taxing employer-provided health care benefits or taxing the stuff that makes you fat, like sodas. House Dems support a surtax on wealthier Americans, but for many in the Senate, that's a nonstarter. Baucus all but said a surtax will not be part of his bill.
Baucus attended a meeting with other key leaders on health care Monday, and aides to attendees tell Fox that Obama pushed for Baucus to get his bill to a markup in committee by next week. Sources tell Fox Baucus is aiming for Tuesday.
That said, a key GOP negotiator, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-ME, said the committee is only "inching" along and does not see how anything could be done by the August recess.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, insisted on Monday, "We're going to get health care done before we leave here," referring to the recess.