Enzi rejects deadline

ENZI REJECTS DEADLINE…. I’ll give Sen. Mike Enzi credit for one thing: he has an overabundance of chutzpah.

Last week, Enzi the conservative Wyoming Republican who is part of the Senate Finance Committee’s gang of six, said his little group’s deal couldn’t be tampered with after they’re done with it. He issued a statement explaining that he “needs commitments” from the White House, the Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader that the center-right compromise “will survive in a final bill that goes to the president.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected Enzi’s demands 24 hours later.

Today, Enzi had a new thought to share.

One of the three Republican senators working on a bipartisan agreement on healthcare reform legislation flatly denied Monday the Democratic claims that negotiators had set a mid-September deadline to complete their work.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of six senators on the Finance Committee working on the bill and also the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, pushed back hard at assertions by Senate Democrats that the bipartisan group has vowed to complete its work by Sept. 15.

“I have not and will not agree to an artificial deadline because I am committed to getting healthcare reform right, not finishing a bill by some arbitrary date,” Enzi said in a statement issued just minutes into a meeting on the bill in the offices of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Enzi, who no one has ever called a moderate, thinks six centrist and center-right senators should just keep talking, indefinitely, until there’s a health care reform bill that Republicans are satisfied with in the Senate with a 60-vote Democratic majority.

On Friday, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said there’s no reason to keep the talks going forever. The committee will move forward on Sept. 15, whether GOP lawmakers are satisfied with the legislation or not. The goal, apparently, was to spur some action from Republicans who might want a deal, but aren’t in a rush. As Jonathan Chait noted, “[T]he only way those Republicans, except maybe Olympia Snowe, will support a bill is if they think there’s a strong chance that Democrats will pass an even more liberal bill without their input. This would give them some incentive to compromise, but zero incentive to compromise quickly. Indeed, they have a strong incentive to drag out the negotiations as long as possible.”

Enzi, in effect, told Baucus today, “I prefer to drag out the negotiations as long as possible.”

Krugman had a good item last week, reinforcing a point that’s too often overlooked: “The central fact of the health care debate is that there is essentially no agreement on anything — values, philosophy, vision of how the world works — between the two sides. Progressives want universal coverage, and see an expanded government role as essential to getting there. Conservatives believe, in the face of all evidence, that free markets are the answer. And Enzi is very conservative. According to Vote View, my site for left-right rankings, Enzi was the 8th most conservative Senator in the last Congress — almost in the same league as Inhofe or DeMint. This is the quest for bipartisanship gone stark raving mad.”