"Max Baucus: Hero or Villain?"
Ezra Klein October 15, 2009:
To put it slightly differently, if you imagine that Max Baucus was given responsibility for keeping conservative Senate Democrats committed to health-care reform (and that’s how his role was often described at the beginning, with Kennedy and then Dodd playing the same role for liberals), it appears he has succeeded. Indeed, if Baucus’s schedule partly led to the long month of August, you also have to give him credit for not losing a single Democrat in its aftermath, and for having the savvy to use the release of his bill and CBO score to change the media’s narrative and refocus the conversation on the advancing legislative process.
The point is that process is, arguably, as important as politics or policy. But it’s not managed with the same ferocious attention as the other two. And that’s a mistake, because it poisons everything else. I don’t think that Democrats made critical political mistakes in the health-care reform fight, and I think their policy decisions were defensible. But they made a number of terrible process errors, from letting Max Baucus spend three months playing footsie with the Gang of Six to holding their concessions for the end of the process rather than running through them at the beginning.
I think today’s version of the argument is correct. But more generally, I think this illustrates that nothing succeeds like success. If the Senate gets its act together and passes a “sidecar” bill of modifications under reconciliation order, then the House will pass the sidecar and pass the original Senate bill and everyone will look like geniuses. If the Senate doesn’t get its act together, then everyone will look like idiots.