Monday, August 03, 2009

Baucus the "Power Broker" Breaking his Base?

Matthew Frank's profile of Max Baucus in the Missoula Independent goes a long way to explaining how this unlikeliest of small state Senators finds himself at the center of the most important public policy debate of a generation. The profile shows both how Baucus got to the point of perhaps securing his political legacy, but how he might also be the very person who dooms it to failure.

The Finance Committee has been replaced by the Baucus Committee, two other conservative Democrats (Kent Conrad, ND and Jeff Bingaman, NM) and three Republicans (Chuck Grassley, IA, Olympia Snowe, ME, and Mike Enzi, WY). These six have holed up for weeks, working out a plan that many Democrats will have a hard time supporting and 99.9 percent of Republicans will oppose because they have no interest in helping the Democrats pass this massive reform. From the outside, it's a fool's errand. Baucus is trading away the store, leaving the shell of a bill that could give us some needed insurance reforms, but will fall far short of actually reforming the system, in the vain hope that he can bring Republicans along.

His own Republican negotiators proved just how pointless this exercise in placating Republicans is this week, when Mike Enzi publically rejected the idea that he was negotiating at all on behalf of Republicans.

Five other Congressional committees and the White House, are supposed to leave completely intact the legislation negotiated in secret by six Senators who represent less than 3% of the nation's population. Legislative process be damned, the Mike Enzi healthcare reform bill has to be passed without question, without amendment by all the other committees. And, if recent key votes are any indicator, all of the Republicans in Congress are going to vote against it anyway. In case Senator Baucus hadn't noticed it yet, Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi just hijacked his bill.

Read it all at Daily Kos

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