It's never a sign of progress when politicians point the finger of blame at the media, and yet so it went today as it became clear that senators would be leaving for the monthlong August recess without a bipartisan compromise bill to promote to their constituents.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, who said recently that the Finance Committee would produce a bill by the August recess now says that the MEDIA created that deadline.
"I think you folks have created the deadlines. We haven't," Reid said at a press conference with doctors' groups pushing for reform now.
This as Republican negotiators peel away from the deadline, with one GOP senator proclaiming that the compromise draft in Finance is a "train wreck" and that he sees no way that the recess deadline can be met.
Reid, instead, chose to highlight yet another deadline (I know of no member of the media setting this one...but we'll see), one set by President Obama, that a bill would be complete by the end of the year.
Despite the pesky fourth estate setting deadlines, Reid said he's "still cautiously optimistic we can get a (Finance Committee) bill done by recess."
Reid blamed Republican leaders in the House and Senate for"harming the process," with Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-IL, going even further, saying those GOPers actually don't want any reform. Their philosophy, according to Durbin, "Let's all light up, drink up, and live it up!"
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, a member of the Finance Committee though not a member of the smaller, bipartisan negotiating group, took a more measured approach. Seeming to know the recess would come with no compromise, Schumer said, "No one thought this would be easy. Snap your fingers, and mm, mm, mm, get a bill done."
Still, all is not lost, as members leave with no bipartisan product to tout on their month-long recess.
Durbin told reporters after the event, "We know concepts and aspects of the (Finance Committee" bill," so he says, Democrats will hold events over the month of August to highlight them. No bill, no problem. One thing Durbin said he would like to highlight, "preventative care." When asked if he would highlight nonprofit cooperatives, something known to be part of the compromise product - and an alternative to a government-run "public option," Durbin would only say, "We will talk about alternatiaves to private insurance."
Republican negotiators remain concerned that they will ultimately keep a seat at the table as Democrats attempt to meld any product that might come out of the House and Senate, and Reid seemed to offer some assurancese that they would, though not in so many words.
"I'm pretty good at arithmetic. I can count to 60," Reid said, referring to the number of votes needed in the Senate to overcome any filibuster. Reid is known to be seeking the support of at least two Republicans to cover the continued absense of Democrats Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, b0th who have been out with illnesses and might not be returning soon, though Byrd is feeling better and easing back into his job, according to his staff.