At Long Last, Baucus Bill Due Wednesday
By Ben Pershing
If Budget Day on Capitol Hill is like Christmas for policy wonks, then today must surely be some lesser holiday for health-care mavens. At long last, Max Baucus will unveil his version of the reform bill, without the support of any Republicans or many radical changes from the framework he has already released.
"The time has come for action. And we will act," Baucus writes in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, adding that the Finance Committee will move forward "in the next several weeks." Baucus's decision not to wait for Republican support, as Associated Press puts it, "dims the chances for a bipartisan compromise on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority." How strong were the chances for such a compromise in the first place? Beyond the basic necessity to get 60 votes in the Senate, how important is it in the broad scheme of things to pass a bill with two or three Republican votes, instead of none? Perhaps more surprising than the absence of support from Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi is that of Olympia Snowe, though that doesn't necessarily mean she won't back a bill in the end. Baucus did say Tuesday that he thought there would be some GOP support for the measure when the Finance Committee reports it out.
The complaints came from both ends of the spectrum Tuesday, with Grassley criticizing the "artificial deadline" Baucus had imposed and Jay Rockefeller, a key liberal, declaring "The way it is now, there's no way I can vote for the Senate package." As always, if Baucus tries to appeal more to one side, he loses support on the other. As Jonathan Cohn notes, "many of the changes Democrats seek are bound to alienate Snowe. (Among other things, improving the affordability provisions probably means raising more revenue, something Snowe doesn't seem to want.)"
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September 16, 2009; 8:13 AM ET
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