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Growing Frustration With Baucus Health Talks

What’s going on with the Senate Finance Committee’s efforts to write a health care bill? Turns out, nobody knows:

Senate Democrats are increasingly frustrated by the secrecy and duration of Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) bipartisan talks on health care reform, with some saying it could undermine Democratic support for the bill.

Democrats both on and off the Finance Committee said the briefings they get about the six negotiators’ progress are too vague. Plus, they say, without a bill in hand, they cannot defend or sell the package to a wary media and public.

No, wait, turns out it’s not that nobody knows. It’s just Democrats who don’t know:

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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.

So you have two broad factions. On the one hand, there’s a block of Senate Democrats trying to achieve comprehensive health care reform. On the other hand, there’s a block of Senate Republicans trying to block comprehensive health care reform. And in the middle, there’s a bipartisan group on the Senate Finance Committee led by Max Baucus. And this group is keeping the blockers in the loop and reform proponents out of it. I have a bad feeling about this.