by Bruce Webb
For the last two months much of the talk around Health Care Reform has been about the Gang of Six of the Senate Finance Commitee to the point that some people think the Gang and the Committee are one and the same. But this is not true at all, this week Chairman Baucus will release the Chairman’s Mark, shaped as it is by contributions from other members of the Gang, and will be faced with getting it through the full Finance Committee, itself largely shut out from the process to date. So for at least the moment the math changes, instead of crafting a bill that could potentially get 60 votes in the full Senate, Baucus is now face with pushing a bill out of the Committee with majority support, which in this case means 12 of 23 votes. The following names are in Committee seniority order with members of the Sub-Committee on Health Care marked with an ‘H’ and members of the Gang of Six marked with a ‘G’
MAX BAUCUS, MT (G)
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, WV (H-Sub-Committee Chair)
KENT CONRAD, ND (G)
JEFF BINGAMAN, NM (G) (H)
JOHN F. KERRY, MA (H)
BLANCHE L. LINCOLN, AR (H)
RON WYDEN, OR (H)
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, NY (H)
DEBBIE STABENOW, MI (H)
MARIA CANTWELL, WA (H)
BILL NELSON, FL (H)
ROBERT MENENDEZ, NJ (H)
THOMAS CARPER, DE (H)
CHUCK GRASSLEY, IA (G)
ORRIN G. HATCH, UT (H-Ranking Member)
OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, ME (G) (H)
JON KYL, AZ (H)
JIM BUNNING, KY (H)
MIKE CRAPO, ID (H)
PAT ROBERTS, KS
JOHN ENSIGN, NV (H)
MIKE ENZI, WY (G) (H)
JOHN CORNYN, TX (H)
First thing to note is that Health is a big Sub-Committee that includes all but four members of the full Committee which might explain why Baucus chose to take it to a smaller group. But inspection of the list shows a curious thing, the Gang of Six managed to include three out of the four members who are NOT on the Finance Health Sub-Committee and so would include those people not committed enough to Health Care to even request a seat.
Second thing is that while Sub-Committee Ranking Member Hatch was originally included in what was then a Gang of Seven, he dropped out early, and Sub-Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, the person you would expect a priori to have the biggest interest in this topic, was frozen out altogether. Nor did the Gang respect seniority, as noted it jumped over the number two Democrat on the full Committee roster in Rockefeller but also dipped deep on the Republican bench to pick up Enzi.
Third is the arithmetic. In order to get marked up legislation out of Committee Chairman Baucus needs twelve of twenty-three votes. We know from news reports that he has no support from nine Republicans, although he continues negotiation with the Gang of Six both Grassley and Enzi are on record that they will not vote for the final version. Which means that even if he retains the support of remaining Republican Gang member Snowe he needs the support of ten of the remaining Democrats to get to the magic number of twelve to achieve a majority. Without Snowe he can only afford to lose a single Democrat. Which at this point means the side-lined Chair of the Finance Subcommittee who the New Republic reports came out firmly against the Baucus Plan on Tuesday afternoon Breaking: Rockefeller Says “No Way” on Baucus Framework
I have sat besides Max Baucus for 22 years on the Finance Committee. … I’m probably one of his best friend among Democrats. But I cannot agree with him on this bill. … There is no way in present form I will vote for it. Therefore, I will not vote for it unless it changes during the amendment process by vast amounts.
Conventional wisdom was that the bill that would supply the framework for the bill on the Senate floor was going to be that of the Finance Committee and that moreover that bill would be fundamentally the work product of Baucus’s Gang of Six. But while Baucus asserts that the work of the Gang will continue, the fate of the bill over the next week will be determined by who can get twelve votes.
In a battle between full Committee Chair Baucus and Health Sub-Committee Chair Rockefeller who holds the strongest hand? We’ll see. But Rockefeller only needs to hold Kerry and Wyden to keep Baucus from an outright win, and one would think at a minimum he can hold Schumer and Stabenow, each of whom’s states look to be big winners from near universal health care.
My inbox tells me the Baucus Plan was just released so I expect to be back with some links and discussion. In the meanwhile: any early thoughts?
(Update one) SWEET. The NYT has the PDF of the Chairman’s mark in a navigable form on their site.