The result of Baucus’ ‘hard work’

THE RESULT OF BAUCUS’ ‘HARD WORK’…. In unveiling his health care reform framework this afternoon, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called his proposal “balanced” a “common-sense” plan that “will” pass. He was asked, not surprisingly, about the absence of GOP support.

“I believe I have an obligation to work as diligently, as hard as I can to try to get the most broad-based bill possible,” Baucus said, adding, “I worked very hard to get that bipartisan support and I think that we will get it. That is, I think that certainly, by the time the Finance Committee in this room votes on final passage of health care reform, there will be Republican support.”

It’s unclear why he’s optimistic about this.

Indeed, the level of support (or lack thereof) puts into doubt the utility of Baucus’ entire strategy. The chairman expected his committee to approve a bill in June. Here we are in mid-September, and Baucus has very little to show for his efforts, except a framework he could have presented months ago.

Matt Yglesias noted, “In addition to the substantive concessions Baucus made in order to get nothing, it’s worth noting that Baucus made huge procedural concessions in order to get nothing. If he’d just stuck to the schedule, we would have been at this point in the process at a time when Barack Obama’s approval rating was considerably higher. And at the end of the day, politics is largely about politics and winning bipartisan support for proposals has at least as much to do with the popularity of the proposer.”

What’s more, Baucus accepted Republican delaying tactics, which led to the August recess, which gave the right the opportunity to trash the bill just as they’d planned. The plan, the president, and the party are all in a weaker position now.

Baucus not only isn’t being rewarded for his attempts at bipartisan outreach, his efforts have led to a landscape that’s fundamentally worse for reform. As Greg Sargent concluded, “It’s perfectly possible that the resulting shift in public opinion could mean the final bill will be significantly different than it might have been. That, in the end, could end up being the Gang of Six’s true legacy.”