In an uncharacteristically impassioned and frank speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) challenged “courageous” Republicans to “break from their leadership” and “work together to pass health care reform.” Baucus argued that the Republican party was more interested in winning seats during the 2010 election than offering sensible alternatives to the health care crisis. He also accused the Republican leadership of pressuring members of ‘Gang of Six’ to abandon bipartisan negotiations.
Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) “wanted to pass health care reform,” Baucus insisted. “They asked very good questions,” but “one by one by one they started to drift away. They wanted to pass health care reform, they wanted to act in a bipartisan basis but they were pressured, pressured from their political party not to do it.”
At one point, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) tried to argue that so-called “Gang of Six” members wanted to support a compromise, but “it dawned on them that my friends on the outer side of the aisle wanted to Europeanize the health care system of the United States of America.” Baucus responded angrily. “I want to tell this Senator that is not what happened,” he shouted, waiving his index finger at Wicker:
BAUCUS: I want to tell the Senator that that is not what happened. I was in the room constantly, constantly. I talked to those Senators many many times. That is not what happened. I”ll tell you what did happen. Your leadership pressured them, pressured them, pressured them not to work together. There is no European style effort in that room, that is a totally untruthful statement. Totally untruthful statement. None whatsoever….That assertion of working towards a European solution is entirely untrue. It’s entirely false.
“I just want the public to know that we worked very hard to get a bipartisan bill that side of the aisle started working with us but gradually they began to bleed politically,” Baucus said. They realized “that they would do a better chance in the 2010 elections by just not working with us, but just attack attack attack attack attack and try to score political points to defeat any honest effort to get health care reform.”
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.