WHEN HARRY REID GETS IMPATIENT…. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was moving forward with a health care reform plan that broke with the vision embraced by the Democratic majority. It would scrap a public option, tax health benefits, and embrace nonprofit health cooperatives. In exchange, Baucus said, a couple of Republicans would vote for the bill, and reform would be “bipartisan.”
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent word to Baucus: you’re going in the wrong direction. Roll Call reported late yesterday that Reid “strongly urged” Baucus to “drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes.”
According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus that several in the Conference had serious concerns and that it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.
The New York Times reported something similar, noting that Reid “apparently decided that some of his fellow Democrats were trying too hard to win Republican support.” Josh Marshall spoke to a knowledgeable Hill source who added, “Now that they have 60, Reid and Durbin need to remind Dem members that when your Leader files cloture, you support him. If you want political cover, vote against final passage. Fine. But opposing cloture means you’re supporting a filibuster of your party’s agenda. From what I hear, they started delivering that message, if a softer version of it, earlier today.”
On the flip side, Roll Call talked to a Democratic source who said, “I’m concerned we’re going to be perceived as abandoning the Republicans…. Going the partisan route doesn’t get this bill done any faster.”
That, of course, is nonsense. For one thing, Republicans deserve to be abandoned on this. They don’t want health care reform, and making the bill worse to placate a shrinking minority, with no credibility or support on this issue, is ridiculous. For another, going the “partisan route” may absolutely get the bill done faster, since the negotiations can be limited to members of the same party who share a common goal.
No word, as of yet, on what Baucus thinks about all of this, and/or whether the Finance Committee will follow the leadership’s “strong urging.”