The whispers around Washington is that healthcare reform is in trouble.

Even liberal blogger Ezra Klein is now scaling back his expectations and characterizing any progress as a good step forward…

It is one of the paradoxes of the legislative process that something that is substantively quite timid can also be quite bold. This version of health reform is far from what the country needs. It is far from what any health-care experts would develop left to their own devices. But it is still a monumental initiative and, if passed, it would be the most significant step forward since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid.

And let’s not forget the emergence of the plan by Daschle and Dole, which, intentional or not, cast Congress’ current efforts in a decidedly partisan light.

Now a team of Democratic and Republican Senators are banding together to make sure this thing doesn’t die yet again.

From Wash Post:

Seven senators have formed a bipartisan group to find consensus on health-care reform legislation, a sign of fresh momentum after a week of setbacks.

The group, dubbed by its members as the “Coalition of the Willing,” includes Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa). Others who attended the first meeting this afternoon in the Capitol included Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), and GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the ranking minority member of the Senate health committee.

The finance panel aims to produce a bill with a total price tag of under $1 trillion over 10 years. Baucus said the legislation could be unveiled next week, although the committee is not expected to begin formal debate until after the July 4 recess. Baucus had aimed to start deliberations on Tuesday. But he announced yesterday that lawmakers needed additional time to digest a complex menu of provisions.

Note that Kent Conrad is in that group, and his co-op idea has been picking up supporters in Congress and elsewhere.

My gut tells me that the final plan that will get passed is some variation of Conrad’s co-op, mixed with the Daschle/Dole state run plan. That way the appearance of the federal government running everything is minimized, even though it would still be funding most of it.

More as it develops…

Politics Will Bi-Partisan Team Save Healthcare Reform?