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Tilting at Windmills

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September 16, 2009

BAUCUS COMES UP EMPTY ON GOP VOTES.... After months of negotiations, debate, and partisan wrangling, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will unveil his health care reform framework today. Baucus, who delayed the entire legislative process for months, simply so he could work with Republicans on a bipartisan solution, has managed to garner a grand total of zero GOP votes for his proposal.

CNN has learned that -- barring some unforeseen change -- Democratic Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus will unveil a health care proposal Wednesday without the support of the three Republican senators -- Charles Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe -- he's been negotiating with for months.

...Wednesday, when the Senate Finance Chairman unveils his bill, all indications are he will be doing it without the support of Republicans he has spent hundreds of hours negotiating with.

Gang of Six members reportedly chatted again last night, but agreed to nothing.

So, in the span of a half-day, Baucus' reform package was rejected by one of the Finance Committee's leading Democrats (Jay Rockefeller) and all of the Finance Committee's Republicans. An inauspicious start, to be sure.

All eyes have been on Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), the Senate's most moderate Republican and the only GOP lawmaker on the Hill who seems sincere about wanting a reform bill. She no doubt disappointed Baucus when she concluded that his bill just isn't good enough.

But let's not lose sight of why Snowe balked at the Baucus framework. For one thing, she's concerned about the financing mechanism, which she believes would hit Maine hard. But just as importantly, Snowe also believes (as I do) that Baucus' plan offers weak and inadequate subsidies. "The affordability question is crucial," Snowe said. "It's a central component, because at the end of the day people have high expectations they will have access to affordable health insurance."

In other words, one of the leading Republican negotiators on health care reform believes Baucus' plan is too conservative.

So, does this mean Dems will have no choice but to go it alone, probably through reconciliation? That's probably premature -- Snowe isn't going for Baucus' plan, but Baucus' plan isn't the final bill. It's about to be amended a whole lot in committee, and then has to be reconciled with the HELP bill.

Snowe may still be able to support a reform package -- just not the one Baucus will formally present today.

As for the committee chairman, this has to be pretty embarrassing. He invested months and countless hours in this, holding up health care reform with painful delays. Indeed, don't forget that the Finance Committee was supposed to be the first committee to pass reform.

Baucus, it appears, has very little to show for his efforts.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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It will be a good thing that Baucus's bill goes in the trash. However, I fear that the Democrats, including the president, still harbor great false hopes of a bi-partisan bill getting through. It's like they don't understand English or they're completely deaf: No matter what Republicans do or say to demonstrate beyond any doubt that they're committed to killing any reform, Democrats continue to negotiate away everything they stand for in the hopes of getting Bpehner to vote for the bill.

Not Gonna Happen.

Posted by: Domage on September 16, 2009 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

Pathetic and outrageous. Baucus has channeled too much of the corruption in the health care debate to be taken seriously as an advocate of any interest other than the monied ones.

Posted by: Joseph on September 16, 2009 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Baucus, it appears, has very little to show for his efforts.

My understanding -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is that this person has benefited greatly from "donations" from insurance companies and anti-reform lobbies & the like.

I wouldn't say that he has little to show for his efforts, if that is in fact the case. The nasty discourse over the recess, the pliant & simplistic media being played to cover the braying asses of stupidity at Town Halls -- the process has been muddied to the point where a bunch more people out there are more aware (of the various lies) than they would otherwise have been.

And it should be pointed out -- over & over & over -- that the current bills on the table are extremely weak tea. Nixon had a more progressive plan for health care reform than any of the nominal Democrats currently in office.

Shame on the whole nasty lot of them.

Also, if a small child touches something hot, they generally learn right away not to do it again. Elected Democrats, otoh, seem to be incapable of learning that their Republican brethren have no intention of working with them in good faith.

Let me spell it out in very simple terms: the Republicans want to make a lot of noise and get the most watered down & ineffective piece of trash bill they can possibly muster, which they will then refuse to vote for. Democrats will then own the bill, which as it passes into law will create all sorts of nasty problems because it's a watered down piece of trash, and the people will be told that Democrats can't be trusted to pass good laws.

And why do Dems stand for such? Because they're more concerned to protect corporate interests than they are to provide for the general welfare of the American people.

Posted by: zhak on September 16, 2009 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

It's not like a lot of us on the left didn't tell Ol' Max that negotiating with Republicans would be a waste of time.
And now I'm sure that Max is shocked, shocked that this would happen. And now, Max will whine. Don't you just hate it when a corporate whore moans...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 16, 2009 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

And now, Max will whine.

Yep. He'll whine at the evil libruls who scared off all the Republicans because we wouldn't STFU about the public option. Or some such crap.

Baucus's epic FAIL cannot possibly be due to anything other than the libruls.

Posted by: Domage on September 16, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

I hope Baucus feels *excruciatingly* embarrassed. However, given that he is a career politician, he's probably genetically immune to shame.

Dare I hope that the Dems now officially throw up their hands and focus on the reconciliation strategy? Because, jeez, Rahm, enough already.

Posted by: CWC on September 16, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Baucus has "little to show for his efforts"?

He has the Clown Shows of August and a bill still unwritten to be voted on in the 4th quarter where the Democrats are faced with a down to the wire need to get the bill passed and the Republicans have just 3 more months to run out the clock before election year kicks in.

With results like that I hope Baucus never goes into a china shop.

Posted by: paulo on September 16, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Why is this man the chairman of that committee?

Posted by: freelunch on September 16, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

paulo nails it, I think.

Baucus was successful in what was his true goal: delay the bill until after the August recess. If he hadn't done that, there would likely have been solid momentum in August to begin building a bill that reconciles the various committees' separate ones.

Instead, we had August, death panels--our "Summer of Obfuscation."

Mission Accomplished.

Posted by: terraformer on September 16, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Baucus is an inadequate senator as he does not care about Americans , only corporate lobbyists.

Posted by: mljohnston on September 16, 2009 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Senator Baucus, party of one? Your table is ready."

Posted by: josef on September 16, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase a comment made on DailyKos - "Baucus is a corporate lobbyist masquerading as a Democratic senator."

I think that sums it up nicely.

Posted by: Sheridan on September 16, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

What Sheridan said. And zhak. And paulo and terraformer.

Can't add anything; you guys have already said it all.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on September 16, 2009 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Truly impressive, well worth the wait!

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 16, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats will then own the bill, which as it passes into law will create all sorts of nasty problems because it's a watered down piece of trash, and the people will be told that Democrats can't be trusted to pass good laws.

They're right, the Democrats, with the current worthless POS leadership they have on many committees and in the Senate, can't be trusted to pass good laws--because, as you said, most of them are simply corporate whores just like Repubs, and they go out of their way to try and please the minority party which is completely opposed to change, as opposed to 90% opposed to change like most Dems.
Baucus might have accomplished one impressive goal though--he's now on track to become the Dem who is even more despised by Democrats than Joe Lieberman. Congrats!

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 16, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Baucus, it appears, has very little to show for his efforts."

More like this:

"Baucus, it appears, had very little effort for his show."

Posted by: glutz78 on September 16, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Baucus, it appears, has very little to show for his efforts."

Wrong! He served the GOP's purposes by delaying better than could have been hoped by even Lindsay Graham.

Posted by: Go, Sestak! on September 16, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Snowe got it right in her criticism, a large number of people will not be able to afford insurance according to the subsidy levels being talked about in any of these bills. And yet they will be required to buy it.

At that's regardless of whether there is a public option, which would also likely be pretty expensive.

Posted by: g. powell on September 16, 2009 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

You're assuming: "He invested months and countless hours in this..." For all we know, they were smoking cigars and playing poker behind closed doors while corporate interests were doing the work for them.

Posted by: delNorte on September 16, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

More frightening than laughable was the story earlier this week that Baucus is positioning himself to be the arbitor of the Energy and Climate legislation. Haven't we suffered enough?

Posted by: Bob Johnson on September 16, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

...I fear that the Democrats, including the president, still harbor great false hopes of a bi-partisan bill getting through.

Exactly.

Look, as BHO likes to say, this makes it very simple: If you have to push through a bill with NO republican support -- and that IS what this has come to -- why not try one that you promised and that your base supports?

Huh? Huh?

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 16, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Max Baucus also enjoys playing tennis with brick walls, arguing on the internet, and watching grass grow.

Why, again, is this guy in charge of a powerful Senate committee?

I can't even see his name without the fact that my congressional district has more residents than his entire state.

Posted by: doubtful on September 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

I never expected any better from Baucus, he was against the public option and anything that would hurt the insurance companies from the start. I guess he feels he has earned the 3 million or so he has received from the health industry in the last few years.Every couple of days I have emailed him about healthcare, just to bug him, I hope everyone has done the same, even though I knew he was not with us.

Posted by: JS on September 16, 2009 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it apparent by bow that Baucus is as anxious to see this bill fail as the Republicans. He actually gets more money from Pharma and the insurance companies than they do. The man has been bought.

Posted by: slideguy on September 16, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans and the corporations played Baucus like a cheap banjo. Not hard to do, either. He's been buried in the 100-member rich-man's club much too long without coming up for air. If he hadn't had the security of coming from a small state and getting seniority he would have been nothing to begin with.

This is a high-profile failure of major proportions for Baucus. His reputation will never recover. Let's hope that the Democrats can repair some of the damage he has done and get an adequate bill passed and implemented.

Posted by: Rick B on September 16, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad that both liberals and conservatives are criticizing this proposed reform, as was the case with the immigration bills. As in that case, harmful "reform" is often worse than no reform.

One more thing: In addition to the coercion factor, penalizing those who refuse to participate in the government "option" - here is a list of all the tax hikes in the Baucus Draft proposal.

Taxes are high enough as it is, and the federal government has its hands more than full; we really need to have more transparency and accountability, before coming up with new spending programs.

Posted by: Aakash on September 16, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he shouldn't have tried to be such a two-faced suck ass. He promised Kennedy that he would do health reform right...that is WHY he was given the assignment when Kennedy became sick. He lied then, he's lying now and the the GOP is throwing it all in his face. He should have STOOD UP to special interests, the GOP and done something for the American people that are PAYING all these taxes to have something DONE...I think the congresscritters have forgotten WHERE the bulk of the money comes from...weak weak weak.

Posted by: SYSPROG on September 16, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

How the hell did Baucus fall for this RightWing Dog & Pony show for so long ?

Whadda rube.

Posted by: Joe Friday on September 16, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK
"The affordability question is crucial," Snowe said. "It's a central component, because at the end of the day people have high expectations they will have access to affordable health insurance."

Of course, if the bill had subsidies that Snowe considered adequate, she would oppose it for costing too much. It's the perfect setup.

How the hell did Baucus fall for this RightWing Dog & Pony show for so long

I think suitcase after suitcase of insurance company money softened the fall for him somewhat.

Posted by: mds on September 16, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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