‘GOP? We don’t need no stinkin’ GOP’

Sen. Max Baucus’ decision to release his long-awaited health care overhaul bill with no Republicans on board dims the chances for a bipartisan compromise on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The Senate Finance Committee chairman insisted Tuesday that he’ll keep negotiating with the three Republicans and two fellow Democrats who’ve been in closed-door talks with him for months on the bill he was to reveal Wednesday. Baucus, D-Mont., said he hopes that by the time the committee votes on the bill, as early as next week, Republicans will be there.

But for now, despite numerous gestures to Republicans, Baucus has fallen short in his quest to assemble a coalition of senators from both parties behind his proposal. Obama also hoped for bipartisan support behind plans for reshaping the nation’s $2.5 trillion health care system to hold down costs and cover the uninsured.

“The door’s always open — always hoping that somebody, all six, will be on the bill,” Baucus told reporters Tuesday evening after the latest meeting of his so-called Gang of Six senators. “We’re just going to keep the door open, keep working, keep discussing.”

Many of the details in the Baucus’ bill were already known. Unlike more liberal versions passed by three committees in the House and by the Senate’s Health Committee, it shunned liberals’ call for the government to sell insurance and relied instead on co-ops to offer coverage in competition with private industry.

Baucus’ approach includes a requirement for individuals to buy insurance, with financial penalties for those who don’t. Rather than a mandate for larger businesses to provide coverage for employees, they would be required to defray the cost of any government subsidies for which their employees would qualify.

The bill is expected to cost about $880 billion over 10 years, and it tracks closely with the goals Obama laid out in his speech to Congress last week.

Baucus has been working for months with his committee’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, along with GOP Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Olympia Snowe of Maine. In the end, Democrats believe Snowe may be the only one to support the bill, though she wasn’t committing to that Tuesday night.

“Hopefully at some point through the committee process we can reach an agreement,” she said.

Enzi said he was not yet ready to declare his position. Grassley applauded Baucus’ effort at bipartisanship, but contended that Senate Democratic leaders and the White House had imposed an “artificial deadline” on the negotiators and that Democratic leaders “haven’t made a commitment to back a broad bipartisan bill through the entire process.”

“It looks like we’re being pushed aside by the Democratic leadership so the Senate can move forward on a bill that, up to this point, does not meet the shared goals for affordable, accessible health coverage that we set forth when this process began,” Grassley said in a statement.

He cited Republican concerns over cost, taxpayer funding for abortion services, medical malpractice lawsuits and subsidies for illegal immigrants in any health care bill.

“We’ve been clear from the start that we’re willing to stay at the table,” Grassley added. “There’s no reason not to keep working until we get it right.”

Even as he’s failed to win over Republicans, Baucus also faces opposition from liberals on his committee. Some of them want a public plan in place of co-ops, and several have also expressed concerns about whether Baucus, in his effort to keep his bill’s price tag down, has done enough to make health coverage affordable for working-class and low-income Americans.

“The way it is now there is no way I can vote for the package,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters, becoming the first Finance Committee Democrat to voice outright opposition.

Release of Baucus’ bill sets the stage for what could be a lengthy and contentious drafting and voting session to begin next week, with numerous amendments expected both from the right and from the left. Following that, Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate are aiming for floor action in the fall.


Associated Press writers David Espo, Charles Babington and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.


  1. Carl Nemo

    Senator Ron Wyden OR-Dem also a senior member of the Senate Finance committee begs to differ with Senator Baucus. Senator Wyden claims the bill is going to cost citizens more than before for maintaining our health care; ie., as much as $1000 per family more so. Also the cockamamie scheme dreamed up by Baucus et al. wanting to penalize families for not buying their lame health insurance is mind-numbing to say the least. The penalty would be $950 per annum per family member. So a family of four could be levied $3800 per annum in fines. Say what?!

    Here’s a link from yesterday concerning Senator Wyden’s thoughts on this health health care bill from hell. : |


    Carl Nemo **==

  2. spartacus

    No matter what plan the Democrats come up with and how hard they try to get the Republicans on board, lets face it: the only Republican they have a chance to win over is Olympia Snowe. Because of the concessions they’ve made to get Republicans on board, the bill as it stands now is just another gift to insurance companies which will allow them to continue to abuse the American people. Those who think we don’t need reform have never been shafted by a large insurance company: I have. To know they can literally: choose to ignore a doctor’s wishes for tests to be run on you and even in choosing what medications you can take; pick your doctors for you; choose a falsified record over one they know is the real one (because the falsified one is based on it, word for word, except it says ” so and so did not see…” when the doctor in question did see the laundry list of symptoms and the insurance representative laughs at you while he even READS BOTH REPORTS TO YOU OVER THE PHONE as he tells you knows the doctor is lying but the company doesn’t care – thus destroying your life in the process – this I know firsthand; jack up the insurance premium on your 22 year old son by 13% because he aged 1 year, even though he doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, works out and is a college student who has been on the dean’s list (when I asked about that, and pointed out that in less than 10 years the premiums would more than double, the response “So?”; it goes on. Are we so used to preferred providers and medications and getting permission slips from our doctors that first must be APPROVED by the insurance company that we just don’t realize that it is the insurance company, in way too many cases, that is actually dictating the kind of care we receive, even when it involves our medications and choice of doctor? How many times has a doctor wanted you to take a better medication than the one on your ‘preferred list’, meaning you couldn’t take what you actually need because the company won’t cover it? That goes for medical tests and procedures as well. With HMOs, you’d think allowing a primary care physician to be the gatekeeper would alleviate the situation. Not so, when he’s being paid a very large bonus for every patient he saves money (denies care) on. Mine would’ve fought a breast reconstruction even though it is federal law, except that both surgeons involved headed him off with letters to the insurance company telling them how necessary it was for that patient, and reminding them of federal law and how far they’d go to fight if necessary. These companies are a law unto themselves. The arguments against ‘socialized medicine’ ring hollow when insurance companies already practice the very things those banshees are screeching about (and much, much worse). Insurance companies already: stand between a doctor and patient; choose you medications; pick your procedures; and ration your care. Kill Grandma? These people kill Mom, Dad, you, and your child, as well as ruin lives permanently (and financially).

    Before Ronald Reagan, most insurance companies were nonprofits. Just like everything else connected with that administration, deregulation was supposedly going to lower premiums, give better service, etc. It has done just the opposite. We need health care reform, and that won’t happen without a public option along with a serious overhaul of the way insurance companies do business. I’m afraid this bill will do neither. Mr. Baucus gets more money from these industries than anyone in Congress: this bill, I believe, reflects that.

    No public option with serious insurance reform: no deal.

  3. woody188

    Lucky for us these bills still have to pass Constitutional tests to be valid laws.

    Congress is elected to represent, not to direct, the people.

  4. MightyMo

    I’m about as Christian as a rock, but I’d like to think that I have respectable social values like I think a good Christian would have.
    As a result, I find it absolutely unbelievable that so many Republicans / supposedly good Christians can’t find it in their sense of civility to take an honest attempt at implementing public healthcare.
    We Americans pat ourselves on our backs at every opportunity as being the best at everything, ridicule everyone else as inferior, and pride ourselves as being blessed by God, yet can’t even make an honest attempt at providing healthcare to all. I personally can’t actually picture a God to happy to bless America.
    From the beginning public healthcare has been fought with lies and misinformation for the sole purpose of preventing any change from happening. No change is good change, especially if it means I don’t have to make a sacrafice to help others; great Christain values!
    I would have thought that we could dispence with the retoric and actually carry on a mature effort to find a solution that actually serves our nation well.
    After all, every other industrialized nation in the world has found a way in their inferior and unblessed soles to provide healthcare to all, why should we be any different? If anything, we should be looking not to reinvent the wheel, but to extracting the best that their systems have to offer and implementing it into our own.
    But no, that would mean too much sacrafice from the right. Thank God that we have liberals in America to bring reason to a table full of good Christain Republicans who are absolutely void of it.
    Some things I can understand are issues, like cost. But I am convinced that if this nation redirected a significant portion of the money that we spend each year on healthcare currently, we could easily knock a dent in the bill. Then there are issues like decreasing the child tax benefit and redirecting that towards healthcare. There are plenty of imaginitive steps we could take to redirect what we are currently doing.
    I think public healthcare for all is that important, and I didn’t even mention that we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing because we’ll go broke soon.