What Baucus Said

by JC

Ok. Now that I’ve stirred the pot here by posting Baucus’ video, let me post up the transcript of his words and video, from CSPAN, and let them speak for themselves. Read his words, not in the context of how he sounded saying them (which is what the conservablogs are doing), but in the context of when, where, and in what role did they occur.

Max Baucus is the chairman of the Senate Finance committee, arguably the most important position to advancing a health care reform bill. We have debated Baucus’ role on this committee endlessly, here and on other blogs. While my opinion on Baucus’ efforts are well known, it appears that his tirade, as filmed by CSPAN, and rebroadcast by YouTube are casting him in another light.

I thought early on that Baucus was naive to think he could garner any bipartisan support, and that his strategy of positioning his legislation such that it could gain bipartisan support would eventually implode. Which it seems to have done, as it has ignited a firestorm between progressive, left and liberal factions in the health reform debate, and castigation from the right.

So when Max goes on the floor two days before the final vote, and unloads, he does himself and his legislative fforts a great disservice, as he hands his opposition the tools to derail his efforts to shepherd his bill through conference. It was a serious tactical breach in what to this point had been a carefully thought out, though misguided, strategy of bipartisanship.

I’d offer up that the chairman of the Finance committee melting down right before the final vote on his bill to be not his finest hour, when in essence it should have been. If I were of the “kill the bill” mentality–which I am not, though I think the mandate needs to be struck from the bill, and much backfilling needs to be done–then I would celebrate this outburst as being Baucus’ “macaca” moment.

While history will look at Baucus and his role in health reform, I don’t think that moments like this reflect positively on his legacy, given that they are a reaction to his own failed strategy of bipartisanship.

Full transcript of Baucus’ words below the fold.

Mr. BAUCUS. I reclaim my right to the floor because he doesn’t want to deal in good faith with this issue.

My second point. It is disrespectful, it is unseemly for Senators in this body to invoke the names of Ted Kennedy and Jack Kennedy in opposition to this bill. It is disrespectful and unseemly. I, frankly, am very much surprised that Senators would go to that level and invoke the names of Ted Kennedy and Jack Kennedy in opposition to this legislation. Talk about profiles in courage. I hear Senators on the other side say: Where is the courage of one Senator to stand up and vote against health care reform? That is what I keep hearing. Where is the courage? Where is the courage of one Senator on the Democratic side to stand up and vote against health care reform?

Mr. President, I want to turn that around. “Profiles in Courage”–Jack Kennedy and Ted Kennedy were Senators who worked to try to find resolutions to agreements. They wanted to compromise. They wanted to work together to get just results.

I ask, where is the Senator on that side of the aisle who has the courage to break from their leadership, break from the partisanship they are exercising on their side of the aisle to work together to pass health care reform? I ask, where is the courage? Where are the Senators who have the courage on that side of the aisle to stand up and work together on a bipartisan basis to get health care reform passed? Where?

We on this side reached out our hands for bipartisan

agreement on health care reform, probably to a fault. I say “to a fault” because for months and months this Senator, anyway, extended the hand to work with other Senators on a bipartisan basis. I know the current occupant of the chair knows that. He watched this. He saw it happen in the Finance Committee.

Senator Grassley and I worked very hard to get Senators on both sides of the aisle to work to pass health care reform, very hard. Then after a while we had to work toward another approach. The Group of 6–3 Republicans, 3 Democrats–worked for months on a bipartisan basis to get health care reform passed. Do you know what happened? I watched it happen. Those Senators in the room were acting in good faith. They were in good faith. They wanted to mutually work together to pass health care reform. They asked good questions. Senator Enzi from Wyoming, for example, asked very good questions. Senator Snowe asked very good questions. Senator Grassley asked very good questions. We worked to get health care reform.

But do you know what happened? I could feel it happening. One by one by one, they started to drift away. They wanted to pass health care reform. They wanted to act in a bipartisan basis. But they were pressured–pressured from their political party not to do it, not to do it, not to do it. Why were they pressured not to do it? Unfortunately, they gave in to the pressure because their leadership wanted to make a political statement. One of the Senators on the floor here said: Let’s make health care Obama’s Waterloo. They did not want to work with us, that side of the aisle. They did not want to work with us because they thought it was better to make a political statement: Attack the bill, attack the bill, attack the bill, attack the bill in order to make political points for the 2010 election. That is what they were trying to do.

I ask, where is the courage? Where is the courage? Where is the Republican Senator who will stand up and say: Boy, let’s work together to pass health care reform. Where is the Senator who will stand up and say: We want to work together to pass health care reform.

This Senator tried mightily to get bipartisan support. Ask Senator Grassley from Iowa, with whom I have been working for a long, long time. They were pulled away. Senator Grassley–I don’t want to speak for him, but I know he wanted to get health care reform passed on a bipartisan basis. I know that is the case. Frankly, he got pressured, pressured, and he just couldn’t do it. I have the highest respect and regard for him, but he just couldn’t do it.

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  1. You think this was a mistake? To call bullshit on Republicans using Ted Kennedy’s name to try to kill healthcare reform. I think it is great that Max called them out on this. He did bend over backwards to work with Republicans. They refused. He shouldn’t be ashamed of what he did here.

    • Big Swede

      Glad ya finally chimed in Matt.

      Did the holiday weekend delay you from getting the talking points?

    • JC

      Max had a temper tantrum because the republicans didn’t play by his rules. And because the republicans didn’t play by his rules, we had a much worse outcome because Max pre-compromised his bill to accommodate the no-show repubs.

      Rule #1 in politics: don’t cede any ground until you have to in order to reach a compromise.

      Max broke that rule, and paid dearly for it. His tirade on the senate floor was just evidence that he didn’t like being made a stooge by both Obama and conservatives.

  2. problembear

    it doesn’t really make any difference to most of us what baucus said, says or didn’t say….

    his actions speak for themselves- pandering to the financial interests of the very same powerful health insurance industry that is strangling the life out of american patients, doctors, nurses and hospitals. his bill makes them even stronger and more powerful than before.

    this sorry spectacle was only max trying to appear better than the republicans. not a particularly tough feat but then, max has never been known to pull a muscle trying to achieve anything very strenuous.

    hell, satan looks better than republicans now. someday we will elect someone who is less vaccuous and corrupt. someone who sets the bar higher than sandal height when it comes to reforming our completely laughable health system. but that person will have to break a sweat. this was only one of max’s pathetic attempts to look mad as hell for the camera. sad spectacle indeed. embarrass montana? that ship has sailed a long time ago.

    don’t listen to what max says. watch what his hands (and his ex-staff lobbyists) do to us. max is far more dangerous to middle class montanans and americans interests than any republican could ever be.

  3. Chuck

    How has Max been able to get filthy rich serving the pubic?

  4. Big Swede

    Hey, you guys seen The Hangover?

    Carl Rove slipped Max a roofie.

  5. Poor not-so-bright Max got chumped and he’s pissed. No honor among thieves!

  6. You guys kind of like, you know, don’t understand political posturing, do you?

    Do you really think the public utterances of politicians have any bearing on public policy?

    Someone on Baucus’s staff got a wild hare that he needed to placate some of his Democratic base for all of his apparent consorting with Republicans. (That sort of thing is usually kept from public view.)

    Baucus had tow problems: One, he didn’t mean a word of it, and two, he’s a lousy speaker.




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