Max Baucus: Where Bills Go To Die


Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Dick Durbin of Illinois have been working intensely on a jobs bill for more than a month, talking with relevant committee leaders and other members and dispatching aides to dozens of other meetings in the hopes of crafting a bill that could get through the Senate quickly. And when they walked into a meeting in the office of Reid (D-Nev.) on Jan. 22, they thought they were about to cross the finish line — the Dorgan-Durbin plan would be blessed by the small group of senators in the room, presented to the full Democratic Caucus on Jan. 28 and then taken straight to the floor for a vote.

But Montana Sen. Max Baucus had other ideas. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, where the health care bill was debated for months last year, surprised the senators gathered in Reid’s office by suggesting he wanted a chance to mark up portions of the bill under his committee’s jurisdiction before it went to the floor, according to several people who attended the meeting.

The Black Hole that is Baucus and his committee is the path to ending the bill. If Senate Dems let Baucus get a hold of this, it is over.

Speaking for me only

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    It's getting to the point (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by NYShooter on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:24:08 AM EST
    of being almost too painful to go on.

    They do it with such impunity.

    Look, Reid won't defer to (none / 0) (#2)
    by observed on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:25:28 AM EST
    Baucus unless he wants the bill to die.

    Well, this is a big surprise - not. (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:40:36 AM EST
    Mr. Baucus isn't the only one in the cabal though.

    Anyone else wondering why jobs weren't made a priority ages ago - like from the begining of this Administration?

    FWIW Baucus' former chief of staff is serving in the White House as the deputy chief of staff.  He also apparently was "helping" with HCR too.

    The idea (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:55:31 AM EST
    is to keep wages low and the plebes desperate enough that they'll eventually be happy to forgo any rights they have just for the sake of having a job at all.  Any jobs bill is contradictory to that goal.

    And somehow I don't think Baucus' heart will be broken if Democrats lose House and Senate because of that strategy.  And I don't think he is alone in that sentiment.


    I do not think that Baucus would (none / 0) (#13)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:37:59 AM EST
    be unhappy at all to see the Dems lose both either.  Although, whatever quid pro quo he might expect for helping the GOP might not ultimately be honored and then he would be upset.  Then he'd just be like so many of the other total chumps in the Democratic caucus.

    I'm beginning to think there are a lot of Dems (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by esmense on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 03:33:25 PM EST
    who were happier in the minority. They could blame every failure to serve Democratic constituencies best interests on the Republicans.

    Now that they have large majorities in the House and Senate they no longer have Republicans to hide behind -- and the fact that they have been happily serving their self-interest by catering to powerful special intersets is a little too apparent.

    Dems have been happy to run as "the lesser of two evils" for decades now. But, I guess, they never expected to gain enough power to have to prove it.


    who's that? (none / 0) (#12)
    by noholib on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:34:30 AM EST
    FWIW Baucus' former chief of staff is serving in the White House as the deputy chief of staff.  He also apparently was "helping" with HCR too. --

    Who is this?


    Can't remember his name, but he (none / 0) (#15)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:42:38 AM EST
    was discussed in a number of articles when the whole excise tax question was being debated between the White House and the Hill. He was the go between for Baucus and Obama trying to figure out a way to make a silk purse out of that sows ear.  I have basically concluded that Obama has been pwned by Baucus who is long in the tooth enough in politics to understand that a wonkey and unpopular idea such as the excise tax is going to be a poison pill in the bill.  He looks like he is "helping" Obama, but in reality he is helping to delay, obstruct or otherwise kill HCR.

    Here you go (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:03:14 AM EST
    It isn't just that Baucus is chiming in (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 09:41:43 AM EST
    with his own ideas, and wanting to muck things up, it's that there's no effective leadership to ride herd on the process and provide a unity of focus.  So we have this perception that the Senate Democratic caucus is functioning as a version of The Three Stooges Meet The Keystone Kops, which does not bode well for the chances that effective, progressive legislation can possibly result.  

    What do you do about it?  Beats the heck out of me.  I'd say the answer is "leadership," but right now - and for some time - the tail is wagging the dog - and the dog doesn't seem to see anything wrong with that.  Making the chances that Harry Reid will bite the tail into submission somwwhere south of slim.

    And of course, there is the suspicion that Baucus is the administration's stalking horse, and with Baucus touting the lower cost of his jobs bill ideas, how much longer will it be before that lower cost ends up winning the day - just as it did with the Senate's health care legislation?

    Last year's tag line for Dems was: "Hey!  It's Better Than Nothing!"  This year's is apparently: "Democrats: Going To Hell In A Handbasket...And We're Taking You With Us!"

    Yes, when under siege (none / 0) (#9)
    by KeysDan on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 09:59:36 AM EST
    become an ersatz populist and deploy the "rocking chair" school of governance: show some motion without going anywhere.

    We have leadership (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:18:21 AM EST
    I think we're kidding ourselves when we blame lack of progress on poor leadership. The death of HCR, the stimulus farce and now the job bill are what Obama wanted to begin with. He never was, and he'll never be the progressive candidate that so many wanted to believe in.

    He is leading, just not where we wanted him to lead. He's leading the Blue Dogs exactly where they want to go.  

    11 dimensional chess thinking (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:39:31 AM EST
    It makes no sense politically for Obama to deliberately keep proposing and publicaly pushing for things he doesn't actually want, knowing they're going to get shot down by members of his own party.

    Obama is not some Machiavellian Wizard of Oz pulling all the strings and orchestrating every move of every Dem. in Washington.  He's not that powerful and not that clever, frankly.

    The idea that there are no independent actors other than Obama and that he controls everything, including Baucus, isn't based in any kind of reality.


    I don't think he's that clever either, but (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:45:38 AM EST
    I do not think that he is particularly upset about his policies being pushed to the right.

    Principle (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:58:05 AM EST
    I would never define GWB as a Machiavellian Wizard of Oz, but yet he managed to get most of what he wanted. He would tell Congress that it was his way or the highway. In most cases it ended up being his way.

    If Obama has the power of his convictions on a particular bill then he should stand his ground.

    The problem he has is that he prefers to be the passenger in the car, rather than the driver.


    Its a GOP thing (none / 0) (#25)
    by Socraticsilence on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 02:49:39 PM EST
    Dems just don't defer to the top automatically- its why we don't ever have the same sort of unity on anything that the GOP does.

    He doesn't know good policy (none / 0) (#17)
    by observed on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:54:58 AM EST
    and doeesn't care. That's the bottom line.
    For me, Obama is the District 9 of Presidents:
    Everyone says he's great and brilliant, but I see with my own eyes and ears a stunning mediocrity, the perfect exemplar of the Peter Principle; of course, he has no idea himself.
    I've never seen him give a speech about domestic policy that wandered beyond vague generalities and boilerplate platitudes, delivered as preachy homily. That's not to say other parts of his speeches may inspire people, but when he talks nuts and bolts.. well, I wish he would!
    The big farce last Friday with  the Republicans showcased his lack of depth.

    The Congress is not required to (none / 0) (#19)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:02:17 AM EST
    act in lock-step with the president, and in fact, I think they have a responsibility to push back against policies and proposals with which they disagree, to re-shape and reconfigure, and sometimes, just flat-out reject what the WH is dictating they do.

    The problem is that there is no Obama plan for health care reform, nor is there an Obama plan for jobs - it's all just so vague as to what he wants and expects.  Obama needs to be upfront in expressing what he expects from the Congress, so that it can be clear who is advocating for what, AND, the Congress needs to remember that it is an independent body that has the power to act in concert or in opposition to the wishes of the president.

    This is not, apparently, how things are going to be done; we are going to play these stupid guessing games about whether this Senator or that Representative is doing the bidding of the WH, or acting on their own.  It's a stunning display of cowardice and failure of leadership with neither the president nor members of the Dem caucus willing to take responsibility for how any of this turns out.

    Harry Reid needs to go - and maybe he will, since he re-election chances don't look great, I don't think.  Were that to happen, who replaces him?  What happens if Max Baucus becomes Majority Leader?  

    Lots of questions, no good answers that I can see,


    As long as the Dem senators can use (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 11:06:56 AM EST
    the need for 60 votes as the excuse for "bipartisanship" aka sliding to the right to satisfy the banking, health care, you-name-it corporate sponsors, the Max Baucuses of the Senate will reign supreme.

    Time for getting rid of, or drastically amending, the filibuster rules.

    The filibuster (4.75 / 4) (#22)
    by Emma on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 12:31:47 PM EST
    rules are a red herring.

    "We could enact all these great policies if only...

    we had majorities in the house and senate!

    we had the presidency and majorities in the house and senate!

    we had the presidency and filibuster proof majorities in the house and senate!

    we had the presidency, filibuster proof majorities in the house and senate, and didn't have this darn old filibuster rule!"

    What's next?

    "We could enact all these great policies if only we had the presidency, filibuster proof majorities in the house and senate, didn't have this darn old filibuster rule, and the Lucy Charms leprechaun to show us the way to the end of the rainbow!"


    Kind of what I was getting at (none / 0) (#23)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 12:49:39 PM EST
    Right now they are able to use the 60 vote threshold as an excuse. Let's take away that excuse. I'm for whittling down the excuses one at a time until the Dems are left exposed as being 90% like the Republicans. Then we are no longer pretending about what we are dealing with.

    I see the (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Emma on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 02:00:12 PM EST
    point and the logic of it.  I'm just at the point where I figure it doesn't matter what we remove or do.  Spending all our time removing the alleged barriers replaces direct pressure on our reps to do something despite the barriers.  

    All the time and effort we're spending trying to pave the perfect road for them is covering up the fact that they won't even get in the d*mn car.

    Don't remove the excuses, just stop accepting them.  IMO.


    Question (none / 0) (#3)
    by mmc9431 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:33:58 AM EST
    Why was he ever given that powerful of a chair in the first place?

    Senate Rules (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by NYShooter on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:36:57 AM EST

    See the funny (none / 0) (#26)
    by Socraticsilence on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 02:51:28 PM EST
    thing is he's not a horrible Senator- heck his eventual healthcare bill as late as it was was better in its entirety than the bills which each branch of congress passed- he's just too procedural.

    His bill was terrible (none / 0) (#29)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:45:04 PM EST
    The excise tax was a poison pill.

    More (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:51:01 AM EST

    But the package will not include a tax credit aimed at stimulating employment.

    "What we're doing is leaving room for the creation of a wage tax credit," which, Dorgan noted, will likely be run through the Senate Finance Committee.

    Baucus has suggested to Democratic leadership that some aspects of the jobs package be approved by Senate committees first--particularly those elements that might have a hard time getting 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Currently, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--both members of the Finance Committee--are working on a bipartisan job tax credit proposal.

    They better hurry.

    "I think we've got to move quickly on this," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told me today. "I think that's what the public wants."

    So what measures might escape the Finance Committee? At a press conference today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid them out.

    "We need to extend the highway bill for one year," Reid said. "We're going to do section 179 of the small business tax [code].... We also want to do the Build-America bond," which would extend state and municipal government's ability to issue bonds to finance local projects.

    What Anne said - Leadership (none / 0) (#11)
    by cal1942 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 10:20:45 AM EST
    And the $64 dollar question is why.