Senate Dems Haven't Reached Out to Senate Docs on Health Care

Emerging from the White House after the working lunch he and and his 59 fellow Democratic senators held with President Obama yesterday (August 4), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) told my colleagues and me in the White House Press Corps that: “Everyone recognizes that we are going to do, if there’s any way that’s humanly possible, a bipartisan bill. We don’t want to do a partisan bill.”

The preference of the American people, Reid emphasized, is “we do it together.”

Swell, I thought, so a good place for the Democrats in the Senate to start would be to reach out to the two members of that body who are physicians and happen to be Republicans: Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Barasso of Wyoming, M.D.s.

So, as the press session broke up and the Democratic lawmakers left the “stakeout” outside the Oval Office, I caught up with Reid and asked him whether there was any discussion of including the two senators who are doctors in working out the final details of a health care package.

“No,” Reid told me without hesitation, “We didn’t discuss that.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.), the Senate Democratic Conference Secretary, was also departing. I posed the same question toMurray, fifth-ranked official in the Senate Democratic hierarchy: did the Democratic senators have any discussion during their lunch with President Obama of including the two physician-senators in crafting a final health care bill?

“No,” she replied, “Not specifically.”

Asked about the cold water thrown on including his boss and Barasso in the discussion of a final health care bill, Coburn spokesman John Hart told me: ““It’s unfortunate that some Senate leaders have, for purely partisan reasons, refused to accept the input of the medical doctors in the Senate. We have the health care system we have today because career politicians, lawyers, lobbyists and unelected staff believe they know more about health care than patients and doctors.”