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All Eyes on Reid

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This Congressional Quarterly profile of Harry Reid suffers from being more about the style of his leadership than whether it's particularly effective, but it is, at least, about the right subject. For a long time, Max Baucus was the primary player on health-care reform. But his control over the process is waning a bit. Simply by virtue of being last out of the gate, the Senate Finance Committee's legislation won't define the limits of the possible on health-care reform. It will simply be one option on the table, along with the HELP and, more importantly in some ways, the House, bills.

Moreover, the fundamental strategy favored by the Senate Finance Committee is a bit battered these days. The difficulty senators had coming to a bipartisan compromise within the committee appears to have convinced both the Senate Democrats and the White House that it's borderline impossible to imagine a good health-care reform bill getting a large bipartisan majority on the floor of the Senate. That means the compromises being made within Finance are less determinative of the bill that will emerge after Finance. Not meaningless, of course, but if Max Baucus's prime directive is to keep Chuck Grassley on board and Harry Reid's prime directive is to keep 60 Democrats united against the filibuster, those are fundamentally different efforts.

That's not to overstate my case: Finance still matters tremendously and I, like everyone else, am anxious to see what it produces. In particular, the committee will lay out the revenue options for the Senate. But where once it seemed that the product of Finance would essentially be the product of health-care reform, now that seems much less likely. Which means that we're moving into a phase where the leadership of the Democratic Caucus, as opposed to the leadership of the relevant committees, becomes determinative. In the House, that's Nancy Pelosi. In the Senate, of course, it's Harry Reid. And that makes health-care reform a bit harder to predict. We've spent the last year hearing from Baucus and Waxman and others on this subject. Reid and Pelosi, by contrast, have been considerably more circumspect.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 16, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
 
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Comments

Actually, I think the Speaker has spoken out quite a bit. I think the house bill speaks of her priorities and she has been quite vocal about the public plan.

Posted by: paulrichardson82 | July 16, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

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