View Full Version : Local The Finance Committee is a mess; my attempt to understand it...

09-21-2009, 01:24 AM
Consider this your primer on Baucus and the Finance committee's place in healthcare reform.

The Finance Committee is run by popular Democratic Senator Max Baucus from a red state, Montana. He has continually been reelected in Montana because he tends more to the conservative side and works as hard as virtually any Democrat to get bipartisan support behind his ideas.

Not all of the Democrat-controlled Finance Committee is like that. The Finance Committee contains some of the most passionate liberals the Senate has when it comes to healthcare. Wyden and Rockefeller are two that are particularly prominent.

When Obama asked Congress to cook up their own plans, Baucus looks around and sees his colleagues consistently chalking up adamantly liberal reforms, especially in Kennedy's HELP committee, that have no prayer of winning the support of Republicans.

This cannot stand, thinks Baucus. I will craft my own version of healthcare reform, that will win Republican support. And I'll do that by taking my six favorite members of my 23-person committee -- moderate Democrats, one moderate Republican, and two conservative Republicans -- and craft a truly bipartisan measure that has a chance at Republican support. A Gang of Six. For America.

This pisses off every single liberal in the Finance Committee, especially Rockefeller because he's the chair of the Health subcommittee, and he's being shut out of his OWN committee's discussions on a gigantic healthcare reform package -- in favor of two Republicans who don't want reform at all.

Republicans, knowing they don't have a shot because they are simply outnumbered in the Senate, sense vulnerability in Baucus' attempt to be bipartisan. They figure that by telling Baucus they want this bipartisan healthcare reform, but deliberately stall the process throughout the summer and into the fall as long as they can... the debate over healthcare carries on, and time is the friend of Republicans at this point.

They pull off the strategy fairly well, but not perfectly. One of the Republicans in the Gang of Six gets caught a couple times in the news saying that he basically wants this reform to fail. But to his good friend Baucus' face, he will liberally exercise enough skepticism to stall through the recess.

Olympia Snowe, the only Republican in the Gang of Six that actually has more than an idle interest in healthcare reform, actively brings her own ideas to the table. Baucus loves her because she is a Republican from a blue state, and therefore also craves bipartisanship like he does. But the ideas she keeps bringing are frustratingly watered-down, the most infamous of which is a trigger-option if the private insurance industry doesn't behave. Her ideas are so mild that the Democrats on the committee, moderate though they are, refuse to cooperate with them.

Baucus, stranded in the middle of two sides that fundamentally collide, writes the bill himself. It is weak enough that the insurance industry can still make a killing, it also abandons the public option for the co-ops, and neuters the shit out of the co-ops so that it may be more palatable to Republicans. But it is strong enough to offer the best Health Insurance Exchange yet, that outflanks HR 3200 and the HELP bill on the left side. The CBO, which killed HR 3200, loves Baucus' work.

But the conservative Republicans hate it, in spite of his compromises and scrapping of the public option, they still hail it as a gross government takeover. Snowe won't sign on because there's no trigger and it is still too aggressive for her. And the pro-reform liberals, still sore over Baucus' silly antics denying them any voice in the process, are pissed the public option is gone and that a whole bunch of Baucus' reforms don't go far enough. Rockefeller refuses to support it in its current form. But Obama, as has been his way of favoring moderate Democratic ideas over liberal Democratic ideas, embraces the Finance Committee's work more than any other committee's.

Baucus doesn't have the votes with the bill in its current form, and he needs to win some over. Since the past two months was basically used by Baucus to woo Republicans, that strategy is now out the window. It's all about Democrats at this point, and Wyden and Rockefeller are at the center of pulling that off.

Rockefeller is important because virtually every liberal Democrat in the Senate listens to him on healthcare. And Wyden is important because his ideas involve pulling away from employer-provided healthcare insurance, and has earned plenty of Republican support, making his ideas incredibly enticing to Baucus and Obama, who had both of them over in the White House for ideas and negotiations.

So that's what we're waiting on right now for the committee vote in two days. How far to the left can Wyden and Rockefeller pull Baucus' plan so that the essential heart of reform can beat stronger while not losing support of Baucus and the Blue Dogs. Obama waits in the wings to sell whatever it is they concoct. And Republicans will run every bit of interference they can get their hands on to make the Finance committee the graveyard of Baucus' plan.

09-21-2009, 07:16 AM
Quick, someone get the stake...


09-21-2009, 07:45 AM
Committee. Name all the great ideas that have come from committees.

In this case, the committee was formed to design something people do not want. Now they wonder why it is not seen as good.

09-21-2009, 08:31 AM
The biggest reason I like co ops much better than a public option is a co op has to meet their budget, and can't simply ring up "the nation's credit card" when they have cost overruns.