Economics, Entitlements

Baucus Bill: Now It Gets Interesting

Now the health reform debate in the Senate gets interesting. Republican support for any reform plan is not dead, but it is on life support. Can Senator Max Baucus—or more likely, President Obama—find a way to get Senator Olympia Snowe on board before, or during, the markup of the Baucus bill in the Senate Finance Committee? Even one Republican makes the bill “bipartisan” enough to provide rationale and cover for several Blue Dog Democrats, and makes the bill she supports the lead dog among the five or so that will be competing for supremacy. Or will Democrats get fed up with what many see as a “bait and switch” tactic by Republicans, where a bill includes major amendments offered by Republicans and accepted by Democrats, but then has the same Republicans whose ideas end up incorporated into the package all voting against it? If that is the attitude that prevails among Democrats, then the Senate bill will be far tougher and more sweeping than the bill Baucus wrote with the so-called Gang of Six. That would probably mean the reconciliation route. But a lot will happen, including some moments when health reform or bipartisanship appear dead but can be brought to life in a nanosecond, to make an interesting, even gripping, month of September.

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