Baucus Bill Can't Reach 60 Votes

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Sep 16, 2009 at 11:30

President Snowe has resigned:

Senate Democrats are going to have to move forward on healthcare without a single Republican supporter after Sen. Olympia Snowe said Tuesday she could not back the Finance Committee's bill.

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed to win any Republican backer despite weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors to strike a deal.

This is great, great news. There is no longer any justification for the Baucus bill, as it simply cannot reach 60 votes.

  1. To reach 60, you need all 59 members of the Democratic caucus, plus at least one Republican. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are the only two possible Republicans, for a total universe of 61 possible supporters.

  2. With Snowe opposing, that leaves only Collins. The universe of possible supporters is reduced to 60.

  3. Rockerfeller opposes Baucus bill from the left:

    Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday that he would not support Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) health care reform bill in its current form - primarily because it lacks a public insurance option.

    That reduces the Baucus bill to a maximum of 59 supporters.

The only justification ever given for the Baucus bill, and all of its problems, is that it could reach 60 votes. Well, that justification no longer exists.

The Baucus bill cannot get 60 votes in the Senate. The only way it can pass is through reconciliation. However, the bill was specifically designed to avoid having to use reconciliation.

Even beyond the Senate, given the Progressive Block, it could not have gotten 218 votes in the House.

Not only is the Baucus bill a highly questionable piece of legislation, it simply is not able to pass into law. Given how frequently conservative Democrats justify abandoning progressive policy by claiming that said policy cannot pass through Congress, it gives me great pleasure to point out in order for health care reform to pass, it actually requires a more robust public option in both the House and Senate.

Chris Bowers :: Baucus Bill Can't Reach 60 Votes

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Worse yet (4.00 / 1)
The Baucus bill may not be able to emerge from Committee.  Finance has 23 members and needs 12 votes to pass a bill.  Ten are Republicans and with Rockefeller's no Baucus needs every other Democrat including Schumer, Kerry, and Menendez.  Lovely to say but Baucus Care, the worst possible bill, may be the worst possible for attracting votes.

An old saying is that a camel is a horse dsigned by committee.  Baucus Care is health care designed by a committee and lobbyists.

Can we depose Baucus and get a new Chair?

Why "worse yet"? (4.00 / 1)
If the Baucus bill is such a stinker, why is it a bad thing that it gets voted down in committee? Does that end the legislative process?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Conservadems (0.00 / 0)
In one sense, you are right.  But the possibility of getting a bill out of this committee is prewtty weak as long as the bill is taken seriously.

The Finance Committee is loaded with conservadems. Five of those stinkers by my count.  Any bill needs at least three to be reported out.  With three liberals or semi-liberals plus Rockefeller Baucus really needs to get something that appeals to both groups and he is unsuited for that.

Why the bill has to go through five committees, the House, the Senate, a conference committee is beyond me. If any committee can kill it, that is just more possibility for gridlock.

This "system" of multip[le committes is seriously screwed up.  Seriously.

[ Parent ]
They can work around the committee (0.00 / 0)
Bills have been passed before that didn't go through the appropriate committee.  They hate to do that, but it can be done.  To my knowledge, it doesn't even require a special procedural vote or anything, Reid just puts a bill up for vote.

[ Parent ]
and Baucus, along with the Conservodems look foolish (0.00 / 0)
because they produced nothing despite the fact that they were cast as the most important players in the game.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Ignore BaucusCare -- substitute the HELP bill (4.00 / 3)
Baucus obviously didn't try very hard to appeal to Republicans -- the bill doesn't even include invading another country or tax cuts for the rich or privatization of Social Security.

Beyond snark: It was clear that Republicans were not serious about enacting any kind of reform of the healthcare system. Trying to work with them to reach a bipartisan solution was always a charade. Even Olympia Snowe had offered nothing but worthless proposals and delay. The Party of NO has little to offer.

And BaucusCare -- the lobbyists' delight bill -- is so compromised and expensive that it should be ignored. The Senate Finance Committee should just pass the HELP Committee bill and move on to the Senate floor.

[ Parent ]
OFA has dropped "public option" (4.00 / 3)
from its website.  It was also missing from the pledge sheets at our OFA rally last Saturday.


Wow (4.00 / 1)
that is disturbing.

[ Parent ]
NO they have NOT (0.00 / 0)
Here is their link to a the page. TPM has the same non story
Their argument that Obama has done wrong?

he wording has changed from "must contain" -has been altered to "The president plan offers" as in, its part of the effing plan..

This is parsing to end all parsing.

like right. Who writes this stuff? How can anyone call this "drops the public option"

Please go look at the page that describes the plan, and everyone take a deep breath.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
I don't like it (4.00 / 2)
"Public option" has been our line in the sand.  If they're downplaying it, it's intentional.  

[ Parent ]
Please go look at the page. (0.00 / 0)
If anything has changed it has gone from the plan must include a public option, to the plan includes a public optionm

You have to be parsing with tweazers to mistake that for backtracking.

For example : I could say "Mike must get a dollar", and then later say "I am giving mike a dollar."

You can say, that means I no longer want Mike to have a dollar but you wouldn't "reflecting reality" or some other euphemism for making a mistake.

go to the 'disputed' page


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Talk about parsing! (4.00 / 1)
Obama has parsed public option to death and I'm a little tired of it.  If it's the key to reform (as most of us have been saying), it should be at the top of every f*cking piece of lit or webpage they produce. If Obama truly wants a public plan, he needs to be much more forceful in fighting for it.    

[ Parent ]
Did you go to the page? Did you read a word? (0.00 / 0)
The articles about changes lwoering emphasis on the PO are wrong, the bill is improving, it is becoming more likely that it will pass. Much more likely. Your anger, although a great source of energy needs better aim, to become effective in passing a good bill.

I am not very happy with tpm and fdl for focusing on this error of theirs, and nmot on where people can, and should put their energy to imporiove the bill.

Unfortunately it reminds me of Huffingtonpost's banal 'nipple' stories that they put on the front page every single day. "Clickmakers" to drive up the numbers of people visiting the site. It is yellow jouranlism.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Yes, I read the page (0.00 / 0)
This is what I wrote to a friend who was making the same argument as you earlier:

Most of the people whom I've seen volunteer with OFA only want to do what Obama tells them to do.  If they don't think the public option is a priority, they won't fight for it.  We need those people to use the right language when they call their representatives.  "Public option" sends a message, even if no one knows exactly what it means.  

[ Parent ]
That, even bolded, does not address the point, (0.00 / 0)
the linked page, the original story, the actual plan going forward, or I assure you, what the final bill will be.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
You were talking about using our energy wisely (4.00 / 1)
and I was making the point that Obama's language needs to strong and clear because OFA volunteers will only do what he says.

I argued endlessly last spring with my dear friends who are die-hard Obama supporters that the public option was a key element (per the Stand with Dr. Dean line in the sand).  At that point OFA wasn't using the term so my friends said it wasn't important and they didn't want to use it.

[ Parent ]
But it is the plan, its there and its in every speech. (0.00 / 0)
Thank you very much for letting your friends understand what was important. It is that exact action, which is only encouraged here and elesewhere, not done here, only you can doit, that will make sure this happens.

You did it by convincing your friends. The pledge block did it by standing firm with Obama. Chris Bowers new tool "Openleft Action" introduced today will get it to happen. This has been long, isnt over yet, but it has happened because of the organizing being done by you.

My point is not to find the problems and correct them, as you did, but that the point about the PO being reported today, just the one today, was not accurate and a time waster.

But thank you again for keeping your friends apprised of our potential for good reform.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
argh my typing! (0.00 / 0)
My point is not (that we dont have )to find the problems and correct them, as you did, but that the point about the PO being reported today, just the one today, was not accurate and a time waster.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
But I didn't correct it (0.00 / 0)
My arguments went nowhere until OFA changed the language.  When I encourage local Dems to take action, they want clear, forceful language, not 8-point plans (as the OFA materials had at the time).  Back in the summer, we simplified it to "Public option, no triggers" and they felt more comfortable making the calls to our reps.

[ Parent ]
So "must" becomes "is" (4.00 / 2)
Your claim is they used to say the public option "must" be in the plan, but today they claim "is" in the plan.  Hard to argue against that.

The White House has gone with an official three point sales pitch, which I think is very good.  I have a hard time seeing why people would complain they coordinated this message across their other operations.  If anything, it would be stupid if they did not.

[ Parent ]
Snowe (4.00 / 2)
actually described the entire problem with the various plans floating around:

Snowe has objected to Baucus's bill for requiring as many as 4 million uninsured Americans to buy health plans without providing them with significant federal subsidies.

Snowe said that lawmakers cannot expect people to comply with a federal mandate to buy health insurance if affordable plans are not available

"The affordability question is crucial," said Snowe. "It's a central component, because at the end of the day people have high expectations they will have access to affordable health insurance."

Of course how you do this without a public option is a mystery to me.  Without a public option, the progressives may have to kill any bill if the subsidies are insufficient.

Its odd, I thought Snow was an odd woman out in the republican Party (4.00 / 1)
a person of principle, even if her principles were prioritized wrongly. How we can ensure affordability without a public option and subsidies is ignored. Only opposition is explained.

This unfortunately is probably more pressure from her party, than deliberation with herself or her constituents.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Paid for (4.00 / 1)
Snowe is both in favor of higher subsidies and for making the total cost smaller.  Of course, the subsidies are the component of the bill most closely tied to the overall cost.  She's backed herself into a corner.

[ Parent ]
Yep (0.00 / 0)
There is no way to square that circle.  

[ Parent ]
Snowe rightly trashes BaucusCare, but offers nothing better (0.00 / 0)
The best way to reduce costs is to adopt a single-payer Medicare-for-All system that would cut out all the excess expenses of the existing system:

1. Massive bureaucracy devoted to determining who has insurance and what that insurance covers

2. Monopolistic pricing of insurance

3. Excessive healthcare insurance company profits

4. Excessive pay packages for healthcare insurance company executives

5. Excessive healthcare insurer advertising and lobbying expenses

Second best is the public option which at least would reduce 2, 3, 4, and 5.

But Olympia Snowe has opposed both of these options and proposed nothing that would actually address these five sources of excessive cost. Now she complains about BaucusCare, but she offers nothing better.  

[ Parent ]
Plus (4.00 / 2)
Massive staffing in hospitals and doctor's offices to deal with a multitude of insurance beaurocracies designed to deny care.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps non-profit private insurance companies (4.00 / 1)
and very heavy Federal regulation.

Or, maybe a Federally administered single payer system.

"Cash for Clinics", whereby the "government" buys up all the hospitals.

Maybe the corporocrats would perfer to discuss those options?


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
super confused... (0.00 / 0)
But if MA appoints a Kennedy substitute in the next couple of weeks, doesn't that mean they're forced back into a 60 vote strategy? (I thought I read that the Gov. was gonna sign such legislation this week)

Nothing is guaranteed... (0.00 / 0)
...the republicans will try to use procedural roadblocks to try to stall, and they probably will file a suit in court after the fact.

We can't just assume that there will be a 60th vote for us...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
The 60 vote plan is dead (4.00 / 1)
Baucus would destroy Obama if he could, he is a betraying Democrat, that is who he is. He has exposed himself for the last time.

What we will have and what we need is a bill that will get 50% plus one. 50% of the Senate plus Biden. Having another Senate voter from Mass will help make the bill better. The vote from mass will as good a Health Vote as could for I am sure. One of the 50%, and we will be able to ignore one more "not progressive enough senator"

They like playing hardball, thats the game the right likes. This is hardball, the big leagues. Time to start warming up with extra bats on your shoulder.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
I have trouble seeing Bernie Sanders voting for BaucusCare (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
better yet (0.00 / 0)
Let's hope this experience really sinks in for Baucus.  A little Democratic unity in the face of Republican opposition could really pay off repeatedly.  

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

I am not sure I understand the higher math you are using (4.00 / 1)
I heard Rockefeller say he does not support and will not vote for the Baucus bill; I did not hear that he will support a filibuster against the Baucus bill. What is this post about? The Baucus bill or a Republican sponsored filibuster of it? I ask because you keep a whip count of how many votes a bill has in support and I keep wondering how many votes support a filibuster against a particular bill...why isn't this a separate and more important question?

This bill is not that last bill. It is not last in line, it does not represent what the bill will look like. (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Not so fast... (4.00 / 1)
Just because they use reconciliation does not guarantee that they don't push BaucusCare through it... We need a Progressive Senate Block... 10 Senate Democrats who refuse to vote for something without the public option.  That doesn't seem like it should be so difficult to come up with...

No (4.00 / 1)
The bill still needs to pass the House.  Reconciliation does nothing to help pass a bill through the House, so the House Progressive Block is all that is needed.

I like the idea of a Senate version, but it is not required.  In fact, you have this backwards.  If the Progressive Block was in the Senate, but just big enough to stop 60 votes, then Reconciliation could be used to get around it.

[ Parent ]
Senate block... (0.00 / 0)
Will make it less likely that the house one will fold... If Reid decides to push through BaucusCare without putting the Public Option to a vote, then the Senate version is going to be BaucusCare unless we have the votes to stop it.

[ Parent ]
That I agree with (0.00 / 0)
I was just disagreeing with what appeared to be a mathematical arguement.

The bigger the block the better.

[ Parent ]
In less words... (4.00 / 1)
My only point was never underestimate how badly Democrats can screw things up, even when they don't have to. =)

[ Parent ]
BaucusCare is already pretty much blocked (0.00 / 0)
Even if the final bill ends up mostly like BaucusCare (individual mandates with no public option), there's still no guarantee Olympia Snowe will vote for it.  So that bill would at most get 59 Democratic votes.  If Snowe decides to vote for it then we just need one liberal Democrat to join the Republican filibuster.  That could be Jay Rockefeller; that could be Bernie Sanders.

(Though, as I understand it, Sanders needs to get "permission" from Dick Durbin to break with the Democrats on "procedural votes"; I don't know if cloture would fall under that umbrella but it most likely would.  If Sanders defies the Democratic leadership and filibusters a public option-less bill, he could be expelled from the caucus and be left with no committee assignments.  Then again, if they let Joe Lieberman off the hook they might do the same for Sanders (or is clemency only okay for "moderates"?))

In any case, it seems to me that a "Block" is actually easier in the Senate than in the House, since in the Senate, as it is no bill can pass 60 votes even with all Democrats voting together.  If reconciliation is used it'd take ten Senators to form a Block but it looks like BaucusCare wouldn't survive reconciliation anyway.

[ Parent ]
NO this is wrong. (4.00 / 1)
Baucus' excretion will be flushed away before it stinks up the building. The dems we need have already said this bill has no chance of surviving. That is Chris' point.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
More important for the post-conference bill (0.00 / 0)
but yes.  This probably needs to be done.

[ Parent ]
Am I the only one who's paying attention? (4.00 / 2)
The lesson here is: work harder to attract Republican support.

Recommended! (4.00 / 3)
We should make this bargain with Republicans.  In exchange for personal mandates for private insurance, we'll eliminate Medicare and enact national tort reform.  Health Care Reform is ours!

[ Parent ]
Yes and no. (0.00 / 0)
You don't need to be so cynical, if thats part of your question, and no lots of people think that way too.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Of course one doesn't "need" to be cynical (0.00 / 0)
Once the folks in DC stop letting me down, I'll stop being cynical.

Skeptical cynicism in politics is like wearing a bicycle helmet. You can survive without it, but its a damned good idea.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
i'm mildly interested (0.00 / 0)
in hearing the explanation of how letting Baucus drag this out for how many months now? was a super good strategy and/or the inevitable unavoidable consequence of something or other. because it's not like there's a Democratic majority in the Senate or a Democratic President or anything. what could they do?

i'd say just pass it out of committee and to hell with what's in it except those same geniuses are in charge of merging it with the HELP bill. i'm sure that will go well.

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

if Rockefeller can help rally support (4.00 / 2)
for a strong public option I will upgrade his status from it's current level of "torture enabler who did nothing to prevent the murder of prisoners held by the U.S."

The Democratic Finance Committe Chairman can't count apparentlly..? (0.00 / 0)
HA,HA,HA, HA HA,HAAAAAA!  "A year of preparation by our Committee", he says.

Oh geez, are we Democrats so horribly useless, or what???  

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

This guy is insane.. (4.00 / 1)
To come to the mic with no Republicans and many of his own colleagues voicing disappointment, he just said he believes he's found the right mix..??

Reid and Obama give this hack all of August - to create his own poison pill.

Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

[ Parent ]

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