The New York Times’ Caucus blog reports that the Senate HELP Committee’s progress on a health overhaul bill is delayed by chairman Sen. Ted Kennedy’s, D-Mass., ongoing illness. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Kennedy’s deputy on the committee, has been selected by fellow committee Dems to lead negotiations in his absence. Dodd said, “We are a little bit behind the Finance Committee because obviously Senator Kennedy hasn’t been with us, our chairman, our leader in all of this.” The Times calls Dodd’s statement a “rare public acknowledgment.”
The Committee was originally planning to release the bill this week but is not expected back on the Hill for another two weeks. According to the Los Angeles Times:
[A]mid concerns from some Democratic lawmakers and the White House that the delay would jeopardize progress on healthcare legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the last week sought and received Kennedy’s permission to move ahead without him.
However, just Wednesday Dodd told reporters that a bill would be available “in the next several days,” with no mention of Kennedy’s health or a possible delay.