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Grassley, Enzi still at the table

From NBC's Ken Strickland
While many Democrats expected, and may have privately hoped, that Senate Republicans Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi would pull out bipartisan health-care negotiations this week, they haven't. This afternoon, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said the bipartisan group -- the "Gang of Six" -- will meet again tomorrow.

"That's been the same story for seven months," Grassley said today referring to claims that Republicans were on the verge with pulling out of the talks. "There hasn't been on harsh word said at any of those meetings. So we're still having a very friendly discussion."

Republicans continued participation, particularly by stalwarts Grassley and Enzi, may blunt some criticism that the GOP isn't serious about health-care reform. While Democrats argue that Grassley and Enzi won't support the bill in the end -- that they're negotiating in bad faith -- they have not called it quits just yet.

Their continued participation also may give Republicans ammunition against Democratic desires to use the procedural tool known as "reconciliation," a filibuster-proof way of pushing legislation through the Senate. 

To better understand, consider this make-believe conversation:
DEM: "We're going to use reconciliation because Repubs are no longer at the table."
REP: "How dare Democrats use reconciliation! We're still at the table trying to find a compromise. We're just not there yet."

Olympia Snowe is the other Republican senator in the bipartisan Gang of Six, but is considered by Democratic leaders as an ally in negotiations.