Reid to Baucus: Stop chasing Republican support for health care reform.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.” Roll Call reports:

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans. …

“This was discussed in the weekly Democratic leadership meeting,” one Democratic source confirmed Tuesday afternoon. “These concerns were relayed to [Baucus] later on.” … “The longer Baucus takes, the trickier it gets,” the senior Democratic Senate aide said.

If Baucus’s attempts to secure Republican support delay the process any further, the “planned merger” of the Finance Committee’s health reform proposal with that of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee could be “scrapped in favor of allowing each one to move to the floor on its own.” The lack of a public option is a deal-killer for some Democratic Senators because, as Igor Volsky explains, it is perhaps the most effective way to reduce the cost of health care, while ensuring affordable coverage for all.