As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 31, 2009

Baucus Caucus Has An End Date

Max Baucus has been setting deadlines on his committee's work on the health care bill for years now, so until we get to September 15 I'm going to go ahead and call B.S. on this.

Senate Finance negotiators have agreed to try to reach a bipartisan accord on health care reform by Sept. 15, a senior Senate source said Friday.

Baucus has told his Senate colleagues that at that point he will move forward with a markup of a health care bill, whether he has a bipartisan agreement to work from.

That said, this has always been the plan. Give Republicans a choice - they can have input and be part of the process, or Democrats will have to go it alone, because failure is simply not an option.

What would a Democrats-only bill in the Senate look like? Well, it should be a simple task, with 60 Democratic Senators voting in solidarity to move the process forward, then voting their consciences on the final bill.

With the health care bill languishing in the Senate and under fire in the House, Democratic leaders are quietly preparing for Plan B.

Under the scenario now being discussed, bi-partisan talks would be aborted and parliamentary maneuvers used to force the bill through with a party-line vote.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., still has time to try to work out a deal with his Republican counterpart Chuck Grassley, but fellow Democrats are growing restless.

"There's rising disgruntlement with how Baucus has handled this," a senior Democratic aide tells ABC News. "We have to look at other options."

But of course, you have the Ben Nelsons and Mary Landrieus of the world, so it could call for more evasive tactics. And that would be reconciliation. That has a hard deadline of October 15, so this September 15 deadline for Finance Committee talks would give the bill one month to pass a Finance Committee markup, get merged with the HELP committee bill, and make it to the full Senate. Contrary to popular opinion reconciliation doesn't HAVE to turn any bill into Swiss cheese; the worst thing about it is the 5-year sunset provision, which would not be good at all (most of these new procedures wouldn't start for four years).

Interesting that Baucus came up with a way to get the bill out of his committee and put pressure on Republicans just a day after seeing his committee chairmanship threatened, isn't it?

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