Enzi joins Grassley, may reject his own compromise

ENZI JOINS GRASSLEY, MAY REJECT HIS OWN COMPROMISE…. The largest hurdle for moving health care reform on the Hill is the Senate Finance Committee’s Gang of Six, featuring three Democrats and three Republicans. This week, two of three GOP members of the group said they’re prepared to vote against their own compromise.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa acknowledged this on Monday, and Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming told Roll Call the same thing.

Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), a key GOP health care negotiator, probably didn’t intend to signal that Democrats and Republicans will ultimately fail to compromise on a comprehensive reform bill when Congress resumes its work after the August recess.

But in a lengthy interview conducted with Enzi this week via e-mail, the Finance Committee negotiator and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions panel indicated his support for health care reform is predicated partly on its ability to garner the support of 75 to 80 Senators. That condition is shared by fellow Finance negotiator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel’s ranking member.

Given the wide philosophical and political chasm dividing the two parties, the prospect of crafting a bill that can attract nearly all 60 Senate Democrats and at least 25 Republicans is doubtful — and increasingly so.

“I hope that reports that the White House is pursuing a go-it-alone strategy are incorrect, because we need to get a bill that 75 or 80 Senators can support,” Enzi said Thursday in a written response to questions posed by Roll Call.

Roll Call‘s arithmetic was a little off — Enzi is looking for a bill that can attract 60 Senate Dems and at least 15 Senate Republicans — but the point is the same. Like Grassley, Enzi is prepared to oppose his own compromise — if the Gang of Six ever get around to finding one — unless about half the GOP caucus supports it.

Enzi, in other words, can help craft what he thinks is a good bill, but if his caucus — whose leadership has said it will reject a bill no matter how many concessions Democrats make — doesn’t like it, he’ll reject it.

This is, of course, backwards. Enzi, like Grassley, starts with the premise that conservative opponents of reform have to like the reform bill. The substance of the bill isn’t as important as support from the small, discredited Senate minority that is actively opposed to the very idea of health care reform.

It’s farcical.