BAUCUS KEEPS TALKS WITH GOP GOING…. The big news this week on health care reform was word that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “strongly urged” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to stop investing so much energy in reaching out to Republicans. It was an encouraging development.

And yet, Roll Call reports today that Baucus “continued working with Republicans on a bipartisan health care bill Wednesday, despite an urgent warning from Senate Democratic leaders that the potential cost of wooing GOP votes could have a devastating effect on Democratic support for the measure.”

Apparently, as Baucus sees it, the opinions of his leadership and the White House are nice, but if he make the bill just bad enough to get a handful of Republicans to support it, Democrats will accept it, concluding that it’s better than nothing. As the article explained, “Baucus’ calculation, Democratic sources said, is that Democratic leaders and President Barack Obama would be hard-pressed to ignore any measure that attracts bipartisan support if the Finance chairman is actually able to get it done.”

Baucus told the LA Times:

“Fundamentally, legislation that is historic, that is comprehensive, that has a large number of senators supporting it is more durable,” Baucus said in an interview. “It will be more sustainable and will inspire more public confidence.”

It’s just maddening. What will inspire public confidence is if lawmakers pass a good bill that lowers costs, offers consumers choices, and makes quality, affordable care available to everyone. The public will have less confidence — and the reform will be less “durable” and “sustainable” — in a package that was made deliberately worse to satisfy the demands of a handful of members of a failed party.

Reid also met with Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah) — all members of the Finance Committee — to let them know Democrats still want to work with them, despite their opposition to every major provision the majority party cares about. Snowe came away pleased that Reid wants to try to find “a bipartisan consensus.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.