Harry Reid yesterday pulled the plug on painstaking efforts to win bipartisan support for health care reform, telling Max Baucus to drop a proposal, aimed at wooing Republicans, that would tax health benefits and leave out a public insurance option. The Senate majority leader told Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman who's been pushing negotiations, that the effort wasn't worth the few votes it might win, as it would cost the bill 10 to 15 Democratic votes.
Baucus received the directive from Reid ahead of his meeting yesterday with Charles Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican. The two have been working for months to hammer out a bipartisan compromise, but agreement has remained elusive and now looks unlikely. "The longer Baucus takes, the trickier it gets," a senior Democratic Senate aide said.