Roll Call reports today that “Senate Democrats are increasingly frustrated by the secrecy and duration of Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-MT) bipartisan talks on health care reform, with some saying it could undermine Democratic support for the bill.” “At some point, [Baucus is] going to have to worry about getting Democratic votes,” an anonymous senator told the newspaper. “If they think that we’ll take whatever it is that comes out because we want to get something passed, they’re wrong.” Beyond the frustration with the timing of the talks, one source of contention may be that in contrast to GOP negotiators, Baucus isn’t expected to “run any deal by his caucus” before making an agreement:
However, the level of consultation with Democrats stands in contrast with how Republican negotiators are briefing their Members. Senators said Enzi, who is the ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, briefs leaders every day on the talks. And all three of the GOP negotiators have agreed to brief the entire GOP Conference before they sign on to any deal with Baucus.
But Democrats said Baucus is unlikely to run any deal by his caucus before he shakes hands on an agreement with Republicans.
Baucus, for his part, insists that he will reach a deal soon. “We’ll get there,” he told reporters yesterday.
Roll Call follows up:
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee gave Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) an earful this morning about his handling of bipartisan talks to craft a health care reform bill.
Subcommittee on Health Care Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Baucus heard passionate complaints from nearly every Democrat on the committee about the lack of information-sharing on the talks and the policy prescriptions the bipartisan group of six Senators appear to be exploring.
“I think the chairman was a little surprised by the strength and intensity of feeling, and that was helpful,” Rockefeller said.