Schumer wants to pull reform back to the left

SCHUMER WANTS TO PULL REFORM BACK TO THE LEFT…. All available evidence suggests the efforts to strike a bipartisan compromise on health care reform — the misguided Gang of Six talks — were a failed waste of time. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will move forward on his bill next week, whether Republicans on his committee like it or not.

But Baucus’ bill is the result of the Gang of Six negotiations, and is still intended to garner GOP support. If it’s obvious that Republicans won’t go for the Baucus plan anyway, then shouldn’t the bill be more progressive? Suzy Khimm reports that this thought has occurred to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The proposal Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus has put out–the one on which next week’s formal proposal will be based — comes out of his efforts to negotiate a package with the bipartisan “Group of Six.” But it seems likely that one, if not two, of the gang’s republicans — Mike Enzi and Charles Grassley — won’t sign on.

And that has a key Democrat on the committee, Charles Schumer, thinking it’s time to reexamine some of the compromises Baucus made and, perhaps, pull the bill back to the left a bit. “[Baucus’] initial goal was to get the three [Republicans] to go with him, which made him move in ways that he might not want to move if his goal is to unify the democrats on the committee and maybe get just one republican,” Schumer told me, shortly after today’s press conference. [emphasis added]

Consider this in numerical terms, on a scale of 1 to 100. The Dems started out with a 90; Republicans preferred 10. Through the course of negotiations, Dems moved to 80. Then 70. Then 55. Eventually, it became obvious that GOP lawmakers simply weren’t going to budge until Dems got much closer to 10, which the majority simply wasn’t going to do. So, Dems decided to move on without them.

But at this point, what’s the value in voting for the 55? It was the result of concessions made to please Republicans. But if Republicans are going to oppose it anyway, why leave it at 55? Why not vote on the 90 Dems wanted to begin with? Zero GOP votes are zero GOP votes — the majority might as well like the bill they’re voting on.

Restoring the more ambitious proposal is, alas, unlikely, in part because Baucus and other less-than-progressive Dems never really liked the 90 to begin with, and in part because Dems hope to find one Republican (Snowe) who’ll break ranks, and she wouldn’t consider the 90 anyway. At least Schumer is thinking the right way, though.