Wednesday 16 September 2009

Rockefeller says other Democrats oppose Baucus bill

Baucus has submitted his version of the health reform bill, the “chairman’s mark”, to the rest of the committee. It is at least as bad as the rough draft we saw a week ago: coops, mostly at the state level, apparently would be launched with a measly $6 billion and could be crushed easily by the national-scale private insurers. Also, the plan allegedly bans private insurers from masquerading as coops, but apparently there is a plan afoot to re-label Blue Cross in North Dakota (Conrad’s home state) as a coop, so that Blue Cross can not only cement their control over that market and charge anyone whatever they want, but also qualify for federal subsidies while they rip off their customers. It’s open armed robbery. Furthermore the bill requires strict verification of immigration status, which means that all of us must prove citizenship to get the care. Overkill.

Now the full Finance Committee will negotiate and amend. And that’s when the bill will probably be killed. Keep in mind that Rockefeller is the chairman of the health subcommittee in the Finance committee, and Baucus has frozen him out of the process all summer. Now he will step in and kill this monstrosity, I think. He has publicly opposed it, and he says that 4 to 6 other Democrats feel the same way. It is in those committee deliberations that people like Wyden, Schumer and Kerry will hit the brakes on Baucus’ concessions. If Baucus and Conrad hold firm in blocking liberal amendments, they can do so with Republican help, but then the liberals will vote against the overall bill. And so it will die.

While the other Democrats are saying that Baucus gave away too much and must move the bill from the right back to the center, the Republicans want to move even further to the right – they want more concessions. McConnell is already screeching that the bill is too partisan, despite all the Democratic concessions. And the ink on Baucus’ bill was hardly dry before Grassley had leaked his list of further demands to the New York Times.

Grassley even demanded that the Democrats commit to a bipartisan bill all the way through the process – in effect demanding Republican veto power over the final bill. “On top of all that, there’s no guarantee that a Finance Committee bill, even if it becomes bipartisan, will stay that way after it leaves the committee. An overriding issue for some time has been the fact that members of the Democratic leadership haven’t made a commitment to back a broad bipartisan bill through the entire process.” In other words they are insisting that, not only will the Baucus bill contain no provisions that Grassley doesn’t like (such as public option), no later bill will contain them either – they are demanding that even the Democrats outside the committee commit in advance to caving in to Grassley’s demands. So no matter what Baucus gives the GOP, the Republicans are now effectively appointing themselves the majority party, as though the last two elections had never happened.

There’s your dealbreaker.

(Actually Enzi demanded the same thing in July: he expected the full Finance Committee, Reid, Pelosi and Obama to promise not to alter the Baucus monstrosity once the Gang Of Six finished it. Swear to God.)

So there is nothing Baucus can do, realistically, to win Republican votes – whatever he offers Snowe and the gang, it won’t be enough, and it will cost him even more Democratic votes. And the only way to secure a Democratic majority is to rip the bill apart and rebuild it so that it looks pretty much like the HELP bill – which we could have voted on weeks ago.

Baucus has had no luck at all in bridging the partisan gap all summer – he isn’t going to suddenly stumble on a bipartisan miracle in a week or so. The gap is just too wide. Baucus will meet the full committee Thursday morning; the committee members only have until Friday afternoon to propose amendments. Think of that – an outright crook like Grassley had all summer to issue one demand after another, but Rockefeller, the chairman of the health subcommittee, gets two days. And then next Tuesday the final markup of the bill begins – but again, how can Baucus mark up a bill that anyone will support? The tricky part is that Baucus may ask for more and more time to work with the Gang on the final markup – will Reid have the guts to tell him “you’ve got 10 days and then the train is leaving the station”? The reconciliation process is earmarked to begin 15 October – presumably you would want all such committee nonsense finished by then.

Other Democrats, reading the Baucus bill, are also getting feisty. Specter (facing a primary challenger for reelection) now says we should discuss single-payer; Bayh wants to talk about the anti-trust rules (currently the private insurers have a gigantic anti-trust exemption).

Some, like Kos, are already saying it’s reconciliation or bust. There are those who warn that Reid won’t fight for reconciliation because he has a tough reelection fight next year. I thinks that’s nonsense: if he presides over a train-wreck on health care, he really is doomed. He himself has said publicly that he will use reconciliation if he needs to. He isn’t necessarily the street fighter we want to lead this, but guys like Schumer and Dodd will have his back. And Emanuel will be there to knock heads too.

At Obama’s Tuesday appearance, he seemed to toughen up his language a bit. He again spoke out in favor of the public option, but this time he left out the “I’m open to alternatives” dodge. Perhaps it means nothing, but….As he said this week, he has no incentive to pass a bill that people hate, so it’s hard to see him signing a Baucus bill that forces middle-class families to pay $700 a month for lousy coverage and is especially damaging to a core Obama constituency, young voters.

Democrats need this fight, and they need to win it. The American people, and the Republican party need to know that after 40 years of Caspar Milquetoast Democrats, we have fighters in our corner. Because the Republicans will never stop with the attacks, the threats, the public insults, the lies, the smears, the character assassination. Keep in mind that all of this insanity occurred during an off-year: does anyone think the lunacy will taper off in 2010, when the wingnuts dream of repeating 1994, and then in 2012 when Obama runs again?

As I have said before, we will win nothing if we don’t fight.

According to latest polling, the American people think Obama should keep trying to win over Republicans even though the Republicans are not negotiating in good faith. So a key message for 2010 is “Here are all the things we offered, which they rejected; here are all the demands they made. They made compromise impossible”.

And ironically if the Republicans had negotiated in good faith, they could have gotten more of what they wanted: now it is quite possible that they will watch helplessly as the Democrats ignore them and pass a thoroughly Democratic bill.


marieDee said...

I hope that someone in the White House is reading your posts...and MANY someones in Congress as well.
You make so much sense and, for the most part, remain civil while telling the truth about the issues, events and actors in this political drama. (Or should I call it the political follies?)

HelloDollyLlama said...

As I keep saying, Obama knows he has the votes to pass the public option via reconciliation, and it's what he wanted all along. And by the time we go through this year-long clusterfuck, the whole country will know that all the other options are stupid.