"If we cannot produce a bipartisan solution by then, you have to wonder if the Republicans will ever to be willing to agree to anything," Schumer said.
However, one of the negotiators—Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming—said Monday he did not recognize such a deadline, and another, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said: "I don't like deadlines."
After those objections were voiced, Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said that senators were looking at a target date internally but "the main thing is we got to get it right." Baucus said a draft bill would be ready by the end of this week.
Senators have plenty of action on the Senate floor this week, including a vote on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, but health care is still a focus. Senate Democrats are lunching at the White House Tuesday and will hear from White House adviser David Axelrod and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina at a closed-door session Thursday.
Schumer said Democratic leaders continue to look at invoking a procedural maneuver that would allow them to pass the health bill with 51 votes instead of 60. That route is viewed as a last resort, in part because it would probably limit the breadth of policy initiatives.
On the same call, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., accused Republican leaders of trying to hinder bipartisan progress to deny Obama a political victory.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scoffed at the complaints. He noted that Schumer himself hasn't committed to supporting whatever the Finance Committee negotiators produce and that other Democrats have also criticized the plan that's taking shape.
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"Seriously, how can any Democrat who doesn't support what the bipartisan group of Finance members is working on complain about there not being a bipartisan approach?" Stewart asked. "Has Sen. Schumer or anyone in the Democrat leadership offered a bipartisan bill?"
Schumer and many other liberals favor a strong new government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers, and all the plans approved so far have included that. But Republicans nearly uniformly oppose a new public plan, saying it would drive private insurers out of business, so the Finance negotiators are looking at a system of nonprofit health co-ops instead.
Schumer said negotiations on the Finance bill were continuing.
"No one's drawing any lines in the sand right now, but I feel very strongly we need a public option and that fight is continuing," he said.