WASHINGTON – In a blow to the White House, the Senate’s top Democrat signaled Tuesday that Congress may fail to meet a year-end deadline for passing health care legislation, leaving the measure’s fate to the uncertainties of the 2010 election season.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., spoke as Democratic officials said it could be December before Senate debate begins in earnest on the legislation atop President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda, months after senior lawmakers and the White House had hoped.
House leaders, on a somewhat faster track, pointed toward a vote this weekend on a bill to extend coverage to tens of millions who lack it, ban insurance industry practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions and generally slow the rate of growth of medical spending nationwide.
While House leaders weighed final changes to their version of the bill, Reid for the first time publicly raised the possibility that lawmakers would not be able to meet their – and Obama’s – self-imposed deadline of completing work on health care by year’s end.
“We’re not going to be bound by any timelines. We need to do the best job we can for the American people,” he said after the weekly closed-door meeting of rank-and-file Democrats.