From Robert Reich at the Wall Street Pit (August 21, 2009):
Last night, the so-called “gang of six” — three Republican and three Democratic senators on the Senate Finance Committee — met by conference call and, according to Senator Max Baucus, the committee’s chair, reaffirmed their commitment “toward a bipartisan health-care reform bill” (read: less coverage and no public insurance option). The Washington Post reports that the senators shared tales from their home states, where some have been besieged by protesters angry about a potential government takeover of the nation’s health care system.
It’s come down to these six senators. The House has reported a bill as has another Senate committee, but all eyes are fixed on Senate Finance — and on these three Dems and three Republicans, in particular. But who, exactly, anointed these six to decide the fate of the nation’s health care?
I don’t get it. Of the three Republicans in the gang, the senior senator is Charles Grassley. In recent weeks Grassley has refused to debunk the rumor that the House’s health-care bill will spawn “death panels,” empowered to decide whether the sick and old get to live or die. At an Iowa town meeting last Tuesday Grassley called the President and Speaker Nancy Pelosi “intellectually dishonest” for claiming the opposite. On Thursday Grassley told the Washington Post that Congress should scale back its efforts to overhaul health care in the wake of intense anger at town hall meetings. But — wait — the anger is about distortions such as the “death panels” that Grassley refuses to debunk.
I really don’t get it. We have a Democratic president in the White House. Democrats control sixty votes in the Senate, enough to overcome a filibuster. It is possible to pass health care legislation through the Senate with 51 votes (that’s what George W. Bush did with his tax cut plan). Democrats control the House. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is a tough lady. She has said there will be no health care reform bill without a public option.
So why does the fate of health care rest in Grassley’s hands?
It’s not even as if the gang represents America. The three Dems on the gang are from Montana, New Mexico, and North Dakota — states that together account for just over 1 percent of Americans. The three Republicans are from Maine, Wyoming, and Iowa, which together account for 1.6 percent of the American population.
So, I repeat: Why has it come down to these six?
Maybe because they’re so adorable?!
From The New York Times (August 21, 2009):
While various reports have suggested that chances of a bipartisan agreement on health care legislation are sinking into the sunset, the Gang of Six — those three Democrats and three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee — appear to be plowing ahead.
The senators spoke for about 90 minutes Thursday night on a conference call, after which Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the committee, said the senators “remain committed” to working toward a bipartisan bill.
He called the session “productive” and said the senators were focused on making health care affordable and reducing costs. And they expect to meet again before the Senate returns to Washington on Sept. 8.
A note from aides to Mr. Baucus added: “The bipartisan group spent approximately an hour and half discussing their ongoing efforts to craft health care reform legislation that lowers costs and provides quality, affordable coverage. Specifically, the conversation focused on affordability and reducing costs, and the members instructed their staffs to develop and refine ideas to achieve these goals.”
Joining the call with Mr. Baucus were two other Democrats, Senators Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Kent Conrad of North Dakota; and the three Republicans, Senators Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.