Baucus Noncommital on Aug. Deadline for Health Care Bill

By Beacon Staff

The Huffington Post has an odd story today reporting that while Sen. Max Baucus is averring on meeting any hard deadline for health care reform legislation, New York Congressman Charles Rangel said he attended a meeting where he witnessed Baucus making a commitment to President Barack Obama to pass reform legislation out of the Senate by the August recess – just a few weeks away. In an interview, Baucus seems intent on getting some Republican votes for the legislation, even while some of his fellow Democrats are beginning to peel off in favor of passing a bill, be it bipartisan or not. Montana’s senior senator and chairman of the Finance Committee wouldn’t get into specifics and talked about passing the legislation by the end of the year.

From Ryan Grim’s report:

But that’s not what he told Obama, Rangel said. Rangel, who also attended the meeting with Obama, was asked if Baucus had committed during the meeting with the president to get health care reform passed by the August recess. “Yes,” Rangel said firmly.

Rangel is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

Baucus still hopes to woo a few votes from Republicans and publicly committing to a firm deadline, which they oppose, could undermine that effort. Yet Baucus’ unwillingness to publicly commit to a firm deadline is within the chairman’s character. Twisting Baucus’ arm doesn’t often produce much, a senior Democratic aide noted. “I don’t think, knowing him and how he doesn’t respond well to pressure, that this is the best route,” said the aide.

The timing of the bill’s passage is not a small matter. Reform advocates, including Obama, are concerned that allowing the effort to slip past the August recess would sap its momentum.

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