Was it a Gang of Seven?

by Bruce Webb

Max Baucus of Montana (pop 935,670- 89.2% white)
Kent Conrad of North Dakota (pop 636,677- 90.1% white)
Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico (pop 1,928,384- 42.8% white)
Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming (pop 509,294- 88.8% white)
Charles E. Grassley of Iowa (pop 2,966,334- 91.5% white)
Olympia Snowe of Maine (pop 1,321,505 – 96% white).

Most people following the Health Care debate are aware that progress is now under the effective control of six senators who in aggregate are clearly center-right, and from small mostly rural states as seen here (table lifted from Nathan Newman at TPM Cafe). And most of us are equally aware that the party split of what is being called the Baucus Committee is 3 Dem to 3 Repub while the overall makeup of the Senate would suggest a ratio of 3 to 2. All of which has implications of their own, it is a funny kind of democracy that freezes out the representatives of the vast majority of Americans and the whole political spectrum from the center leftward (though I don’t know a lot about Bingaman, I hardly think he is a Russ Feingold type, please comment.)

So please lets talk about all of this. I just want to throw in one last morsel. Last week it was widely reported that Republican Hatch Leaves Bipartisan Health-Care Talks, which as a supporter of health care reform with a public option I regarded at least as a small positive sign that the balance might have swung a little. But given what we are being told now about the makeup of the Baucus Committee this seems to mean that the original ‘Bi-Partisan Committee’ was made up of FOUR REPUBLICANS and three democrats, and those latter three including a chairman hostile to progressive solutions and the author of the Social Security/Medicare gutting Conrad-Gregg legislation. What the hell is up with that?

I understand that it is hard to avoid people taking a least a little bow towards the Pete G. Peterson crowd, but given a 60-40 split turning over negotiations to a group split on paper 4-3 the other way, and given ideological predilections even farther than that is to turn the term ‘bi-partisan’ from an inside joke to an outright laugh riot.

Am I missing something here? Was it somehow not a Republican majority Gang of Seven that appointed itself to be the mediators on this issue? And if so why is Harry Reid even listening? What kind of a Majority Leader just abdicates leadership to the other side on what might be the defining piece of legislation of the decade?