Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 8, 2009

WHEN HARRY REID GETS IMPATIENT.... Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was moving forward with a health care reform plan that broke with the vision embraced by the Democratic majority. It would scrap a public option, tax health benefits, and embrace nonprofit health cooperatives. In exchange, Baucus said, a couple of Republicans would vote for the bill, and reform would be "bipartisan."

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent word to Baucus: you're going in the wrong direction. Roll Call reported late yesterday that Reid "strongly urged" Baucus to "drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes."

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 that several in the Conference had serious concerns and that it wasn't worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

The New York Times reported something similar, noting that Reid "apparently decided that some of his fellow Democrats were trying too hard to win Republican support." Josh Marshall spoke to a knowledgeable Hill source who added, "Now that they have 60, Reid and Durbin need to remind Dem members that when your Leader files cloture, you support him. If you want political cover, vote against final passage. Fine. But opposing cloture means you're supporting a filibuster of your party's agenda. From what I hear, they started delivering that message, if a softer version of it, earlier today."

On the flip side, Roll Call talked to a Democratic source who said, "I'm concerned we're going to be perceived as abandoning the Republicans.... Going the partisan route doesn't get this bill done any faster."

That, of course, is nonsense. For one thing, Republicans deserve to be abandoned on this. They don't want health care reform, and making the bill worse to placate a shrinking minority, with no credibility or support on this issue, is ridiculous. For another, going the "partisan route" may absolutely get the bill done faster, since the negotiations can be limited to members of the same party who share a common goal.

No word, as of yet, on what Baucus thinks about all of this, and/or whether the Finance Committee will follow the leadership's "strong urging."

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

If Reid thinks Baucus's approach bends over too far to get Replicant support, it must really stink.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on July 8, 2009 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

I like to think someone sent Reid this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-berney/why-60-votes-doesnt-matte_b_224255.html

Posted by: Jesse B. on July 8, 2009 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

so poor max -- two horse heads at the foot of his bed -- the insurance mafia's and harry's.

Posted by: neill on July 8, 2009 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

If Harry Reid gets his way, French will be the mandatory language in hospitals.

Posted by: Al on July 8, 2009 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

This is the best thing I've heard this week regarding healthcare. It makes me feel that maybe all the emails I've been sending saying "this is it for the Democratic party--you can't do this with big majorities in both houses--I'm done with you" are working after all.

Posted by: sagacity on July 8, 2009 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

not near good 'nuff, al.
try this:

if the insurance companies screw up the healthcare bill and we get nuttin', charleton heston will come back from the dead and scream "soylent green is people" -- but he'll do it in French:

"Soleil vert, ce sont les gens."

Posted by: neill on July 8, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Her's the thing. If the Democrats eff this up, they will lose so much more than a dozen Senate votes. Fundraising, volunteers, a sellout of a bill will demolish the base's support.

Posted by: Trevor J on July 8, 2009 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how all those elected Democrats are going to fair if all they have to help them win reelection are a few Republican insurance executives? Max, you thought that one through? No good health care plan, no feet on the ground support. That simple.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 8, 2009 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Harry finding somewhat of a spine? Hmmm, just as I was ready to send him a case of W*M's new wine "One Buck Yuck" - Great with roadkill - I'll just send it to Helena, instead. The time to age it as Max's staff forwards it to DC might improve it.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 8, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Baucus needs to have his health care benefits removed for minimum of one year. That way he can worry about an upper respiratory illness this fall, or let's say, the flu and face them both w/o health care. I'd let him keep his bloated salary but my guess is that his out of pocket expenses would have him rethink his ass-holeish stance. If the GOP would have had control of the senate they would have deep-sixed health care reform months ago with knock-kneed Dems sitting in darkened closets sucking their thumbs and giving themselves wedgies. A pox on his aparently askewed brain. Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on July 8, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Now that they have 60, Reid and Durbin need to remind Dem members that when your Leader files cloture, you support him. If you want political cover, vote against final passage. Fine. But opposing cloture means you're supporting a filibuster of your party's agenda..."

Absolutely. Requiring super-majorities to pass legislation are not what the framers had in mind--for good reason. At the very least, the Senate should limit the number of filibusters that can be enacted by the minority during any one session. In the mean time, as a rule, Senate Dems should not filibuster legislation proposed by their own President and/or members of their own party.

Posted by: CJ on July 8, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

French, you say, Al. Frankly, I could care less about the language, as long as I neither have to talk with a bean counter first nor see the Doctor typing my condition into Google.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 8, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

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. 15 Dems worth voting for. I'll be waiting to hear all of you bitching about not raiseing taxes on my health insurance!

Posted by: Rick on July 8, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

I'm concerned we're going to be perceived as abandoning the Republicans

Concern troll is concerned. Feh.

Republicans deserve to be abandoned on this. They don't want health care reform

This, exactly. Democrats need to stop being scared of serving their constituents. Someone needs to read them Kristol's memo from back in the '90s -- the last time the Democrats got played on health care reform -- saying that the Democrats passing yet another popular and successful social program may spell doom for the Republican Party, so they need to simply obstruct.

It's high time the Democrats publicly and repeatedly sigh, shake their heads sadly, tell the nation the Republicans aren't acting in good faith, and get on with the nation's business.

Posted by: Gregory on July 8, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Wyden of Oregon has worked long and hard to promote his Healthy Americans Act, but, Obama has said, while he supports 90% of the Act, it is too radical. In Wyden's proposal the change would be made to the manner in which employers handle health care coverage for their employees. The workers would be able to select and tailor their plans, such as older workers opting out of any obstetricical care. Employers would then give employees raises equal to the former cost of health care coverage. This would be taxable, although Wyden has said tax deductions would off set any payments except to the most affluent. The CBO has written this plan would be quickly revenue-neutral. (Thanks, to the Oregonian for the above).

The President believes this is too radical due to possible confusion by employees. However, as many workers are losing both their jobs and health care coverage, why do we not do something truly radical and vote Universal Health Care into law? Thus, Mr President, no confusion.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 8, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

i heard about wyden just this week on this "radical" plan -- which, if bert is accurate, dont sound like much to me...

ins cos save bucks cause older, maybe even male, employees opt out of obstetrics? hmmm, what a gold mine. not so much.

nah, the last time i heard about ron was somebody hinting at tpm that he was hot to trot on some compromise by ollie snowe. i fired ron one of my gentle suggestions and never heard a peep from his office. maybe if he does have the "radical" label on healthcare they just thought i was an idiot. i make no denials.

Posted by: neill on July 8, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Do you get the feeling that Schumer is making a play for Senate Leader? I think that's the most logical explanation as to why Harry found the tiniest bit of spine.

Posted by: Facebones on July 8, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

And you know d...ed well that no matter how far right you try and swing the bill, in the end, the GOP is going to vote against it anyway, both because they believe their own crap and because the party itself is in thrall to the right-most factions who will crucify anybody who thinks about supporting it. See Mary Bono as evidence.

Posted by: dweb on July 8, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I think we've been looking at this 60 vote majority the wrong way and I believe Josh Marshall is on to something. This 60 vote majority should be used a cudgel against Democrats. Now if only we had a Democratic Tom "the hammer" Delay to enforce some discipline amongst the blue dogs.

Also, I don't think we can say this enough... F* the Repulicans and this bi-partisan BS. We need good policy not bi-partisanship for its own sake.

Posted by: sixtyvotehammer on July 8, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Why are we even talking about 60 votes for cloture? I thought Obama had already announced that health care reform would be considered under the budget reconciliation process, which goes straight to the up or down vote. Has he backed off on that?

Posted by: sceptic on July 8, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Sceptic, the way I understand it is that reconciliation is a backstop and can be used if there's no bill by October 15. It's in Democrats' best political interest to at least put a bill up for a vote rather than building reform through reconciliation. That said, it becomes a nice threat to make sure everyone tries to get input in some kind of bill. Stonewall that, and Democrats can write whatever they want w/no input from anybody else.

Posted by: Trevor J on July 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK
Going the partisan route doesn't get this bill done any faster.

Some Asshat Democratic Senator

[WARNING: RANT AHEAD]

Actually, Sen. Asshat, yes it does. In fact, you jackoffs could have it done by next week if you wanted to.

What the hell more does the GOP needs to do to convince some Dems that bipartisanship is useless? The GOP doesn't give a shit about crafting decent legislation. The GOP doesn't give a shit about Americans having good, affordable health care. And they certainly don't give a shit about working with Dems.

So until the GOP shows it's serious about policy and moving our nation forward, leave them behind. America won't miss them and will, in fact, be better off without them.

Posted by: Mark D on July 8, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

"On the flip side, Roll Call talked to a Democratic source who said, "I'm concerned we're going to be perceived as abandoning the Republicans...."

Imagine, if you can keep your mind from gagging, a RepubCo zombie ever saying that about getting/keeping Democrat support.

Dems are sweet, furry little creatures just waiting to get the crap kicked out of them.

Empathy can be a vice.

Posted by: burro on July 8, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Lots of folks above have it right: the Replicants will never support health care reform, so trying to make the bill bipartisan is a waste of time.

Leave the fetid barstids sitting on the track, let everybody know why they're there, and let the next election run them over. No tears, and try not to bleed on the tracks too much.

Posted by: Capn Chucky on July 8, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I second what Gregory said above and will add that seeking bi-partisanship is what you do when you want political cover for something unpopular. Changing provisions of bills so that no one from the other party can stomach voting in favor like the Republicans did for the first few years of this decade is what you do when you believe in what you are doing and want the credit.

Posted by: Th on July 8, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Empathy can be a vice. -burro

It's not empathy; it's evidence that whomever uttered their 'concern' about abandoning Republicans is beholden to the same corporate masters.

Posted by: doubtful on July 8, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

All the worriers talking about how bipartisanship is required are missing an important point: Democrats have won big in the last two election cycles. The American people are hungry for the policy agenda they're putting forward.

If Democrats dont deliver what they've promised after the voters have empowered them to deliver it, they will suffer.

Posted by: TG Chicago on July 8, 2009 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

That "Democratic source" worried about "abandoning" the poor Republicans - that has to be Lieberman or a Lieberman aide. That's how those assholes talk.

Posted by: bobbo on July 8, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

"...That, of course, is nonsense. For one thing, Republicans deserve to be abandoned on this. They don't want health care reform, and making the bill worse to placate a shrinking minority, with no credibility or support on this issue, is ridiculous. For another, going the "partisan route" may absolutely get the bill done faster, since the negotiations can be limited to members of the same party who share a common goal..."-Benen

Extremely well said. This should be self evident to the dems on the Hill and I hope we are seeing reluctance only because it takes more time to sink in with some republican licking dems.

They will be caught with their pants down trying to justify siding with a republican filibuster or for weakening a good bill just to get repubs to pretend they will support this measure when all they are really doing is stalling to corrupt a successful plan for as long as possible. Remember these anti-public option lobbyists are spending $1.4 mil/ A DAY...a DAY... to block or corrupt this bill...all eyes are watching. Medicare for all...go for it.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 8, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

What Baucus and other Democrats don't want to discuss is the fact that this health care "reform" they are pushing will cost this nation over 100,000 jobs. Seems like the tail wagging the dog to me.

We have already witnessed jobs lost on our web site, http://www.gorillamedicalsales.com , a job board for medical device sales representatives to seek emloyment. Medical companies are simply not filling vacant sales territories now in preparation for "reform"

Posted by: Steve Dill on July 9, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK
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