While Republicans have not yet unified around a broad strategy on health care, for now they seem to be coalescing around the argument that any legislation should not be rushed.
While President Obama was in Wisconsin yesterday and railed against “endless delay” in passing health care legislation, Republican lawmakers emphasized that the issue was too important to be rammed through the Congress without taking the time to get it right.
Sens. Richard Burr and Tom Coburn, who introduced a Republican alternative bill, spoke at a Thursday event on Capitol Hill organized by the Manhattan Institute. Burr explained that under the accelerated schedule, amendments to the legislation proposed by Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee this week would be due by 2 p.m. on Monday, and the process of rewriting the bill (known as “markup”) would begin on Tuesday – even though three parts the bill haven’t been finished yet.
“We have one opportunity to do this right,” Burr said. “If we fail, it will take a generation of Americans to fix those failures.”
Coburn said it was “absolutely asinine” that they wouldn’t even know the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the legislation’s price tag by the time they huddle in committee to work on the bill.
“A criticism of Congress right now might be, ‘Sure we want health care fixed, but we don’t want to fix it just to say you fixed it, we want you to really fix it, so take your time to do it right,’” Coburn said. “We’ll win that debate.”
In his opening statement during a public hearing on the bill, Mike Enzi, the ranking Republican on the HELP Committee, conveyed a similar sentiment.
“We shouldn’t be subject just to timetables,” Enzi said. “We should be subject to doing what’s right.”
Obama has pushed for an expedited timetable under which the House and Senate would pass their own versions of health care legislation next month, and work out their differences in the fall — allowing him to sign something by the end of the year.
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