POLITICS

Sebelius Optimistic Despite "Bad Week" For Health Care Reform

07/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The White House says it is not concerned that the Senate Finance Committee has delayed the introduction of its long-awaited health care bill, contending that the president's timeline for passing legislation is still within reach, as is substantive reform.

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said, during a press conference on Wednesday, that she had talked with Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus shortly after reports broke that his health care bill was being delayed until after the July 4th recess.

"He was totally committed to getting it done this year," Sebelius said. "So I think there will be a bill soon."

Not everyone is so optimistic. Health care reform advocates say in private that news from the Finance Committee is the capstone to a depressing few days. "It is still very much salvageable," said one operative. "But hit has been a bad week for health care."

Indeed, Democrats are growing increasingly anxious with manner in which their own party is crafting a a health care bill. On Monday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee's partially completed health care legislation received a low score by the Congressional Budget Office, prompting a slew of negative news stories and critical questions.

The White House, through it all, has stuck to the same chord: openness to compromise and optimism that legislation will be passed. "Something will get done," said one high-ranking White House aide. "I'm 100 percent confident in that."

On Wednesday, Sebelius had her turn at the role of public defender -- framing the news from Congress as simply an affirmation that bi-partisan consensus takes time and effort.

"I think there is no question that Senator Baucus and Senator [Chuck] Grassley are hard at work to fulfill the president's commitment to a health reform bill that covers all Americans, reduces costs, provides higher quality care than right now people are experiencing and is paid for," she said. "I think the good news is that they are going to stay at the table until they are ready to produce a bill that meets those guidelines and those goals. I think legislators here would agree that having that be final goal.... are important goals. So that is what is at work right now."

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