Despite administration's position, bipartisan healthcare negotiations continue

The White House is ready to give up on getting Republican votes, but moderates in the Senate aren't

Published August 21, 2009 3:15PM (EDT)

In Wednesday morning's newspapers, the White House was signaling that it's realized bipartisan negotiations aren't doing much of anything for the cause of healthcare reform, and that it's ready to give up on them. By Thursday night, the senators conducting those negotiations were back at it.

Six members of the Senate Finance Committee -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- held a conference call late Thursday in which, the Washington Post reports, they "agreed to redouble their efforts to craft a less costly alternative to the trillion-dollar initiatives so far put forward in Congress." The paper also reports that "the senators rejected the idea of imposing a deadline on their negotiations ... The consensus, one participant said, was 'to take your time to get it right.'"

The group "remain[s] committed to continuing our path toward a bipartisan health-care reform bill," committee chair Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in a statement released after the conference call.

Perhaps the most notable participant in the meeting was Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. If anyone was responsible for the administration's pushback on negotiations, it was Grassley. At the same time that he's been leading Republican efforts to work out a compromise, he's spread the myth about "death panels" in the bill, said that he's unlikely to vote for the legislation no matter how many concessions are made to him and told the Post that a bill needs to get 80 votes to be truly considered bipartisan.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Healthcare Reform Max Baucus D-mont.