Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has put off a decision on health care until after the August recess. (Photo: AP)
Washington - Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday abandoned plans for a vote on health care before Congress's August recess, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's ambitious timetable to revamp the nation's $2.4 trillion system of medical care.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., delivered the official word on what had been expected for weeks, saying, "It's better to have a product based on quality and thoughtfulness rather than try to jam something through."
His words were a near-echo of Republicans who have criticized the rush to act on complex legislation that affects every American.
Reid told reporters the Senate Finance Committee will act on its portion of the bill before lawmakers' monthlong break. Reid then will merge that bill with separate legislation passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee earlier this month.
The process will be difficult since Finance, led by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is seeking a bipartisan deal while the health committee bill was passed by Democrats on a party-line vote.
Reid said the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bill that can win at least 60 votes in the Senate.
Reid said he had listened to the requests from senior Republicans working with Baucus to allow more time for a compromise to emerge.
"The decision was made to give them more time and I don't think it's unreasonable," he said.
Obama, who just Wednesday night on prime-time television made another appeal for health care, had pressed for the full House and Senate to vote on respective bills before the August recess. The news of the delay came just hours before the president's appearance at a health care forum in Ohio.