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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Enzi Invents New Six-Member Unicameral Parliament, Appoints Self Prime Minister

Steve Benen hit this yesterday, but I just noticed it. Mike Enzi, like most Senators, finds himself very, very important. So much so that he believes the November election leading to 60 Democratic Senators, 258 Democratic House members and a Democratic President sent the message that his word must be law.

With liberal Democrats on and off the Finance Committee already angling to pull the measure to the left when it is combined with a rival passed by the Health Committee, Enzi indicated his support is contingent on Democratic leaders leaving any Finance Committee agreement intact.

“I also need commitments from Sen. [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] and Speaker Pelosi, as well as the administration, that the bipartisan agreements reached in the Finance Committee will survive in a final bill that goes to the president,” Enzi said.

There are six Senators involved in the Baucus caucus in the Senate Finance Committee. Together they represent about 2.8% of the total US population.

Let's add in some additional facts. Five Congressional Committees are working on health care legislation. The legislative process works like this: the bills coming out of the committees in the respective chambers are merged into single bills for a floor vote. Senators and House members have the opportunity to offer amendments. Those amendments are voted up or down, then there are final votes on passage of the bill in the House and the Senate. The bills coming out of the respective chambers go to a conference committee, where they are merged, with the details ironed out, and then returned to each chamber for a final vote.

That's how government works.

Mike Enzi's conception of government is this: Mike Enzi agrees to a compromise with 6% of the total Senate representing 2.8% of the population, and it becomes law.

I will say that his version has speed on its side.

The bill Enzi wants to fast track has a favorable CBO score going for it, reportedly costing under $1 trillion over 10 years and covering 95% of all Americans. But the only way to do that is to cut subsidies to the bone, making coverage unaffordable; or to phase in the program later in the ten-year budget window, maintaining the current broken, crappy system for as long as possible. It also apparently eliminates the successful Children's Health Insurance Program.

And by the way, they can't get it done until after the August recess.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyoming, dropped the bombshell news to CNN and two other reporters in Capitol hallways Wednesday night. They have spent weeks behind closed doors, trying to hammer out an agreement with their Democratic counterparts on the Senate Finance Committee but said too many issues remain unresolved, making it virtually impossible for them to sign on to a deal before the break.

“There are a lot of tough decisions to make and they aren’t going to be made real quickly,” Grassley said late Wednesday when asked whether negotiators should kick their talks over to September.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, had already postponed Senate floor action on health care legislation until the fall, but Democrats had hoped the Senate Finance Committee could finish its work before the summer break. In fact, one senior Democratic source said meeting that deadline was the central thrust of the president’s meeting with Reid and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, last Friday [...]

Enzi, a soft-spoken conservative, was furious about headlines Wednesday morning that suggested he was close to reaching a deal with the Democrats.

“I felt my reputation was in danger,” he said.

In Enzi's world, signing on to a compromise with Democrats would ruin his reputation. So obviously we should just let him set the policy by himself. After all, 189,046 voted for him last year.

The silver lining here is that liberal Democrats in the House are resisting going along with this nonsense. From CongressDaily (sub. req.):

A trumpeted healthcare reform agreement with conservative House Democrats set off a firestorm of criticism from the party's liberal wing Wednesday, pushing back proceedings in a key committee and casting doubt on the strength of the leadership-backed accord.

Leaders and White House officials worked for days to reach an agreement with Blue Dogs, who had been holding up the legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee because of concerns about cost, burdens on small business and a public insurance option [...]

"There's angst; there's questions; there's some anger," Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said of the meetings with Waxman. "The question is, have we given up too much for the goals that we need?" he said of the agreement. "I don't want to see the insurance companies subsidized by middle-income taxpayers."

The Progressive Caucus called the Waxman/Blue Dog deal "unacceptable" and vowed to defeat such a compromise on the House floor.

Meanwhile, in the best news I've heard in years, Senate Democrats are making threats to Max Baucus' committee chair.

In an apparent warning to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), some liberal Democrats have suggested a secret-ballot vote every two years on whether or not to strip committee chairmen of their gavels [...]

"Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "If the ‘no’s win, [the chairman’s] out [...]

Some senators suggest privately that Baucus might be more open to persuasion if his chairmanship is subject to regular votes.

Another senior Democratic senator endorsed Harkin’s suggestion but declined to speak on the record for fear of angering Baucus.

"Put me down as a yes, but if you use my name I’ll send a SWAT team after you," said the lawmaker when asked about a biennial referendum on chairmen.

Civil rights legislation in the 1960s didn't move forward until the House Rules Committee chair, a segregationist Southern Democrat, saw his power neutered by an expansion of the committee. Process changes often precede policy changes. Sen. Baucus, take note.

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