Archive for Sunday, September 20, 2009

Baucus dogged by ideological ambivalence

September 20, 2009


— In the early 1970s when Max Baucus, now the senior senator from Montana and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was contemplating entering politics, he sought advice from many veteran public servants.

His steps brought him to the Washington law offices of James H. Rowe Jr., who came out of Montana and Harvard Law School to join FDR’s White House staff and later became a counselor to Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and many others of that generation.

As I eventually heard, Rowe — who took the time to teach this reporter valuable political lessons — was impressed with the young, good-looking visitor who was backed by a wealthy, well-established Montana family, and encouraged him to pursue his dreams.

But before he left, Baucus asked Rowe one surprising question: Do you think I should run as a Republican or a Democrat?

Rowe, the old New Dealer, said, “I sure hope you’ll be a Democrat.”

The ideological ambivalence implicit in that question has dogged Baucus throughout his career. Always a Democrat, he has never been a sure vote for his party’s leaders, and on many occasions, he has aggravated the more partisan of his colleagues by insisting on going his own way.

It has never hurt him at home. Montana is a bifurcated state. The eastern two-thirds look like the Great Plains states of Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas, and vote as conservatively as they do. But the western, more mountainous third includes mining centers such as Butte and the academic towns of Helena and Missoula where Democrats find their votes. Baucus has straddled the divide.

When President Obama put health care at the top of his domestic agenda, Baucus saw the opportunity to cap his career with a historic piece of legislation. Concerned that the other committee with health jurisdiction, then headed by Sen. Ted Kennedy, might move ahead of him, Baucus staked an early claim and let the White House — and everyone else — know that he would be the one who mattered.

As it turned out, it was that other committee, led by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut after Kennedy’s fatal illness sidelined him, that completed its work first. But with Baucus leading lengthy negotiations with the “Gang of Six,” three Republicans and two other Democrats on Finance, Obama and congressional Democratic leaders kept sliding the deadline for a floor vote in hopes that Baucus could deliver a bipartisan bill.

Last week, Baucus conceded that his effort had failed — at least, so far — and said he would offer his own bill for amendment in committee this week.

He is not alone in discovering that the task of restructuring one-sixth of the American economy and navigating the myriad conflicting interests and constituencies involved is indeed a daunting one. In the House, the bill shaped by three separate committees has a price tag that many regard as excessive and includes the “public option” that appears to be a nonstarter in the Senate. Dodd’s bill faces similar objections.

But it is almost certainly the case that none of the other chairmen has as much riding on this issue as does Baucus. Dodd has written significant bills such as the Family and Medical Leave Act in the past, and has a major hand in the financial regulatory bills Obama hopes to see passed this year.

The three House chairmen also have many trophies in their cases. George Miller was a co-author of No Child Left Behind. Henry Waxman’s name is on the energy-climate bill awaiting a Senate vote. Charlie Rangel, like every other Ways and Means Committee chairman, produces important tax, trade and welfare legislation as regular as clockwork every two years.

This was to be Baucus’ moment. But when it came last week, he had to admit that he had enlisted not one Republican supporter and then had to endure criticism from his fellow Democrats that his measure fell short of what the campaign had promised.

As usual, Baucus is in the middle. But it is a miserable place to be.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Could not decide to be democrat or republican hmmmmm.

Hey Broder Baucus is not in the middle....only in your eyes. Baucus is the best friend the insurance industry could buy.

This man Baucus and his pal Dodd are in the gang protecting the medical insurance industry.

OH and they are protecting their shares of stock. AND Dodd's wife sits on a board that brought $200,000 to the Dodd's bank account last year. Yes sir David Broder these two are up their with the republican party.

According to radio news Baucus has received more than a million dollars in campaign money over the recent years preparing him for this moment. Yes the med insurance industry has known this revolt would come. The industries are spending an estimated $1.4 million a day to defeat reform.

Yes this is corrupt spending of health care dollars that could be spent on clients instead of shareholders and politicans.

Have no fear folks this reckless spending will be attached to your 2010 premiums and/or a reduction in coverage and/or increases in co-pays/deductibles.

Because of such deep deep deep corruption on both sides of the aisle this matter should be on the ballot. Serious conflicts of personal wealth interest prevent the most fiscal responsible decisions on this matter from politicians. After 70 years of compromise it is time for compromise to stop.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

When will politicians ever understand they are working for us not their careers...

Any health insurance plan that includes insurance companies indicates the insurance companies are still in the drivers seat. This is not what the people want. It is what the politicians want.

Thus far insurance companies have not contained the cost of health insurance or healthcare. The USA is spending nearly 3 times as much as other industrialized nations yet not receiving any better healthcare.

HR 676 National Health Insurance How Would It Help?

Two great assets to HR 676: 1. Everyone will receive the same quality healthcare no matter if rich,middleclass or low income.

 2.  HR 676 will effectively remove medical insurance coverage from the list of special interest campaign contributors. YES!

HR 676 = one insurance company = efficiency = reduced cost

HR 676 = patients choice across the board = removing the insurance companies from healthcare decisions = improved healthcare across the board.

HR 676 = removing the health insurance industry from the special interests = removing health insurance dollars from campaigns,obscene salaries and golden parachutes

HR 676 = no more bankruptcies due to insufficient health insurance coverage = no one losing homes

  • HR 676 establishes an American-styled national health insurance program. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care program that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding and improving it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories.

The goal of the HR 676 legislation is to ensure that all Americans, guaranteed by law, will have access to the highest quality and cost effective health care services regardless of ones employment, income, or health care status.

*With over 45-75 million uninsured Americans, and another 50 million who are under insured, it is time to change our inefficient and costly fragmented health care system to HR 676.

*Physicians For A National Health Program reports that under a HR 676 Medicare For All plan, we could save over $350 billion dollars a year in total health care costs.

*HR 676 would move citizens away from our present system where annual family premiums have increased upwards to $12,068 this year. 2010 sees premiums at $18,310.

*HR 676 = Medicare for All would allow the United States to reduce its almost $2 trillion health care expenditure per year while covering all citizens.

HR 676 = Every person living in the United States and the U.S. Territories would receive a United States National Health Insurance Card and identification number once enrolled . No co-pays or deductibles are permissible under this act.

Physicians for National Health Insurance HR676


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