The Gang of Six strikes again:
I think it's something like Battered Spouse Syndrome. How else to you explain why Max Baucus keeps trying to win the approval of the people who repeatedly kick him in the teeth?
Late yesterday, the Gang of Six managed to connect over the phone. They reportedly raised the idea of moving the reform legislation even further to the right.
In a conference call, the three Democratic and three Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee agreed to redouble their efforts to craft a less costly alternative to the trillion-dollar initiatives so far put forward in Congress. They discussed the possibility of also reining in the scope of their package, the sources said. [...]
Before leaving for the month-long recess, Baucus had pegged the cost of the negotiators' ideas at less than $900 billion over the next decade. Thursday's discussions focused on driving that cost lower, the sources said.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, note that the only reason to "rein in the scope" of reform, and try to make the efforts much cheaper, would be to satisfy the demands of conservative Republicans -- the conservative Republicans who oppose health care reform, and who intend to vote against the bill anyway.
This is madness.
In a recent interview with the editorial board of a local Montana paper, Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus (D-MT) continued his advocacy for a “bipartisan” approach to health care, arguing that “it’s better for the country.” Yet, he also admitted that the GOP leadership is putting “intense political pressure” on his committee colleagues Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley, and Mike Enzi to defeat any health care bill:Psst. Max. They don't really love you. They're using you like toilet paper. Get a clue, you stupid little shite - haven't you noticed that every time you concede ground, they demand you concede more ground? Grassley's playing you for a fool. They've turned you into a laughing stock. You're more popular among Cons than you are the people who'll actually vote for your ass. And for good reason, considering you've had the public option off the table from the start:“The Republican leadership in the Senate and in the House is doing its utmost to kill this bill,” he said. “They are putting intense political pressure on Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snow and Mike Enzi, to bow out, because they want to kill it. So I’ve got a challenge ahead of me to work out all this on policy as we go through these meetings.
Olympia Snowe admitted to Andrea Mitchell that the Senate Finance Committee is not even considering a public option in their bill and never had it on the table. She said that the skyrocketing costs of health care are paramount to their bill which is why they are ogling co opts.
Mitchell: So bottom lines, Nancy Pelosi says that they will not produce anything that does not include a public option. Do you see any way that the gang of six will come out of the Finance Committee with a public option?
Snowe: No, I don't. We have not had the public option on the table. It's been co ops and addressing affordability and availability and plans through the exchange and those are the challenges we're wrestling with to insure that there are basic plans to offer Americans.
You suck, absolutely suck, at negotiating, Max. I think it's time for Harry Reid to take your shiny toy away and bring the HELP Committee bill to the floor for a vote.
It's not like you'll ever get those mythical Con votes. Jon Kyl assures us it is so:
This week, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said "almost all Republicans" are likely to oppose health care reform, no matter how many concessions Democrats make, even if it's the result of a bipartisan compromise.What would it take to get those votes? Kyl says Dems would have to ax the entire bill. That's just politics-speak for "There's no fucking way we'll vote with you. Ever."
Any chance Kyl might try to walk these remarks back? Apparently not. Reader V.S. alerted me to this interview yesterday, in which Kyl talked to Fox News' Neil Cavuto and doubled down. "For either the bill that passed the House Committee or the bill that passed the HELP committee in the Senate, I don't think a single Republican in the Senate would support either of those bills," Kyl said.
When the discussion turned to the possibility of splitting the bill in two -- one bill with popular consumer protections, another with more controversial elements -- Kyl added that Republicans will reject those bills, too. "That'll be no deal," he told Kyl.
It's worth noting that Kyl isn't just a member of the Republicans' Senate leadership, he's the Minority Whip. In other words, he's responsible for counting and rounding up votes for the party. If Kyl says there are no GOP votes for reform bills, it's likely there are no GOP votes for reform.
Now, I wouldn't normally advocate listening to RNC chairman Michael Steele, but in this case, he's right. Dems have the votes. They need to pass this thing on their own. They need to stop negotiating with Cons, because you can't negotiate with people who only want to kill you dead politically, and you can't negotiate with egregious dumbfuckery:
Yesterday in a “telephone town hall,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) not only repeated her opposition to Democratic proposals for health care reform, but characterized all federal government incursions into health care as unconstitutional. In fact, she said that attempting reform was nothing more than a “distraction” from more important issues:
FOXX: The Constitution doesn’t grant a right to health care, and most of us are living as much by the Constitution as we can. It also doesn’t give the federal government the authority to deal with health care. As you may know, the 10th amendment, it says if it isn’t mentioned in the Constitution to be done by the federal government, it’s left to the states or the people. [...]
I think one of the problems we have in this country right now is the fact that the federal government is trying to do too much. We need to leave things to the states and the localities. … And unfortunately, we are distracting ourselves from looking after the defense of this nation because we are dealing with issues that should, by right, be the state and individual’s.
She has the same childish grasp of the Constitution that Bachmann does. And she has all the compassion of a strangler fig.
Meanwhile, we have Bachmann and DeMint putting on quite the floor show:
You can't negotiate health care reform with people like this. And it seems quite a few Americans realize it - only 28% are confident that Cons can "make the right decisions for the country's future." Out of that 28% only 4% have "a great deal of confidence."
But the two wacky Republicans actually teamed up last night to participate in a tele-town-hall event (a meeting over the phone) organized by Americans for Prosperity, a far-right lobbying group opposed to health care reform.
During the call, DeMint and Bachmann didn't use the word "nullification," but they seemed to offer some support for the idea.
A caller asked DeMint what the states could do in order to stop unconstitutional action by the federal government on health care. DeMint replied, "I think the key to pushing back against the federal government is some governors and state legislators who champion individual freedom."
DeMint said he would love to see states go to court to invoke the Tenth Amendment: "If we had some states come together and say the only way to save this country is to push back." He also added: "I think you'll see some states say no more, we're not going down with the federal government."
Bachmann added that governors should take collective action. "We'd have to see some fairly revolutionary action taken by the these states, and it's question of whether these governors would do that," she said.
Given her track record, when Bachmann starts talking about "revolutionary action," it's unclear if she means "revolutionary" in the ground-breaking sense or the overthrow-the-U.S.-government sense.
If you're new to this argument, Josh Marshall explained today, "Nullification, the constitutional theory that states can block enforcement of federal laws they find objectionable, was crackpot from the start and hasn't been seriously entertained anywhere in the county since the Civil War (with the exception of feigned attempts in the South during the Civil Right Era)."
It's why it's all the more unnerving to hear two sitting members of Congress talking like this in public -- in the 21st century.
Listen to the people, Dems. Admit you can't get health care reform done with the Cons, kick the bastards out, and do what must be done.