Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said, "It certainly is important for us to listen to the president. He certainly is eager to move a package along, and good for him. I think it's important that there be pressure, otherwise things tend to drift. On the other hand, we're working diligently. I think you can see we're spending many hours a day. We've got the best experts in the country we're consulting. And we're making very good progress. But this is hard. And there's just no way around it."
Costs are a key cause of concern for many Blue Dog Democrats. Conrad said the Finance Committee has established a "menu" of ways to pay for health care reform but has not agreed on what to order.
"We've got items on the table that would cover the cost," he said. "The question is which one of those, from the menu of options, which do you ultimately decide to choose. And we've not made a final decision. We're evaluating all of them, and of course, we're looking at the cost side too, trying to bring down the cost. But there are enough options to pay for this."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said today he has pulled out entirely from the closed-door bipartisan negotiations happening among members of the finance committee.
In a statement released by his office, Hatch said: "During our discussions, I grew increasingly concerned that the president and congressional leaders have, to date, been unwilling to roll up their sleeves and agree to protect a bipartisan health care compromise from being gutted on the Senate floor and in a conference with the House."
"It has become increasingly clear to me that Sen. Baucus has not been given the flexibility necessary to construct a realistic health care reform bill that can achieve true bipartisan support," he wrote.
Hatch's departure from the talks leaves only three other Republicans working with Democrats for a bipartisan health care bill -- Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Charles Grassley of Iowa.
The president has argued that deadlines are necessary in Washington to get issues moving. The White House also fears that the longer a bill is delayed, the less the chances are of it getting passed.
Some Democrats outside the White House and Congress echo the president's tune, expressing the divide within the party on the legislation's timeline.
"I think the risk of failure goes up consequentially if we don't get it done by the August break," former Health and Human Services secretary candidate Tom Daschle said.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said reform is needed soon.
"He's got a proposal on the table, which he's hoping the House and Senate both embrace, which is to stop paying for things that don't work," she said on "Good Morning America" today.
Meanwhile, Republicans stepped up their counteroffensive this week, calling the president's push too hurried, and countering the president's claim that Americans want reform now.
In a joint press conference Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, criticized the Democratic plan.
"This is too important to be rushed. This is about getting the policy right. We don't wish anyone ill, we want to get the policy right," McConnell said.