Senate Leader Softens Health Care Deadline

In the face of bipartisan angst over a tight deadline on health care reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, softened his tone Tuesday, indicating that his "desire" is to have a bill done on the Senate floor this work period, which ends August 7.

Reid also indicated, in not so many words, that bipartisan negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee are not going as well as many hoped.  Reid was asked if the committee would be ready to consider a bill this week, to which Reid responded, "I'm very hopeful they'll have a bill this week (and) start marking it up Saturday."

As there is next to no chance this will happen, it is more likely that Reid is pushing the committee chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, who is already feeling the heat to produce a bill as soon as possible.

Still, Reid slackening the deadline will give negotiators room to breathe as they desperately search to find ways to offset about $200 billion in health care reform spending.

Negotiators have the elements of a bill on the table, but they have yet to make the difficult, politically-unpopular decisions on how to raise the revenue to pay for a bill.   Inevitably, that means tax hikes, and that is always a hard vote to take for any politician.

Congressional sources also tell Fox that negotiators, who had hoped to produce some kind of product, perhaps a statement of principles, in time for President Obama's Wednesday prime time news conference, are very unlikely to do so.