More on Senate Finance and the Expectations Game

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 29, 2009 12:47pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: That splashy Washington Post headline that ABC News' Jonathan Karl mentions – “Senators close to Health accord” – has drawn a public statement from the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Finance Committee. The story points to an “emerging consensus” in the bipartisan talks and says the six bipartisan Senators could reach accord in the “coming days” and quotes Sen. Harry Reid, who said in front of live TV cameras that he expects there to be a vote in the Finance Committee before the August 7th recess. The written statement, attributed to the spokesmen for Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, seeks to tamp those expectations down. “While progress has been made in recent days, neither an accord nor an announcement is imminent,” say the two spokespeople. “In fact, significant policy issues remain to be discussed among the Members, and any one of these issues could preclude bipartisan agreement.  Members are continuing their methodical work this morning.” The joint statement points the finger at the Washington Post for building expectations, the bipartisan negotiators have a hand in the blame too. Grassley himself sounded upbeat in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition just today, when he said the negotiators are “one the edge” of a deal and suggested they could circulate language to members by this weekend. Inskeep: “Do you think it is likely in the next few days that you are going to come up with a bill that Democrats, the White House, and possibly some Republicans could actually support?” Grassley: “Well, don’t forget there’s three Republicans and three Democrats doing the negotiations. So consequently we have made great progress. Every day we make some progress. Will we get it done so we can get a bill to the other members by this weekend because there is a certain time you gotta give people to study it, uh, we’re on the edge and almost there. But we’re not, either Republicans or Democrats, are not in occasion of something that deals with life or death – that’s what health care is all about – we’re restructuring 1/6th of the whole economy and we want to make sure that seniors don’t get health care rationed, we think it ought to be done right. Whether a deal is imminent is up for some debate. Sen. John Kerry, emerging from a briefing by Baucus, told reporters yesterday we could see a Finance proposal in “the coming hours and days.” But off-camera, Sen. John Rockefeller, who seems to be gearing up to oppose the co-ops idea that bipartisan negotiators want to replace a public plan, said he didn’t see a way to finish the bill by next week. And he complained that the negotiators are throwing out new ideas at the last minute. “This is not a time to be experimenting,” he said.

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