Friday, August 28, 2009

Waiting for Baucus

Jonathan Zasloff wants to put Max Baucus on the couch, or barring that just get an answer to his question, "Max Baucus: Stupid or Evil?"

I'll say one more time that there's no point in paying much attention to what a poker player does in the middle of a hand. Baucus could actually be foolish enough to think that Grassley (and Enzi? Really?) are on the cusp of joining a grand, ninety-vote coalition for a wonderful health care bill. He might secretly have no intention of supporting any bill, although it's very hard for me to see the motivation for pretending to support health care while actively seeking to undermine it by devious means; if he opposes it, why not just come out and say he's against it?

Liberals such as Zasloff are blind to the third, and most likely, option, which is that Baucus is using Grassley and Enzi to establish some cover for himself and other marginal Democrats if and when they have to vote for a Democrats-only bill.

We will know soon. There's been no reason to act quickly so far, given that Democrats were better off heading to recess with the various bills still at the committee stage; no one in a marginal district wanted to have to defend a vote for a bill that was apt to be dramatically changed in conference. The new timetable, I suspect, will be pegged to the actions of the Massachusetts legislature; there's no reason to schedule votes on a bill until the 60th vote is secure. If Baucus is still trapped in his Group of Six at that point, I'd entertain the Stupid and Evil possibilities; up to then, he's just a Player, doing what politicians do.

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